On Tuesday 26th September 2017 Angola swore in new president Joao Lourenco. Lourenco succeeds Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been Angola’s head of state for 38 years. Both men are of the Movimiento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the party which has ruled the nation since independence in 1975, with Dos Santos taking the helm in 1979.
The inauguration follows last month’s elections, in which the MPLA won with 61 percent of the vote. A result notably lower than in previous elections. The outcome has been fervently contested by opposition party UNITA who boycotted the inauguration. However, UNITA’s insistence that the elections were marred by unfair media coverage and queries over vote-counting does not seem to have tainted the inauguration in the eyes of regional powers. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was one of several African leaders to attend the inauguration.
Prior to his leadership bid Lourenco was most recently Angola’s defence minister, and prior to this served as the party’s secretary-general for a number of years. He campaigned on the platform of guaranteeing the nation’s development and progress, creating job opportunities and improving health and school systems. He has also vowed to tackle corruption within the MPLA, a promise met with some scepticism by the MPLA’s critics.
It remains to be seen to what extent Lourenco will be able to carve out a new path as president out of the shadow of Dos Santos. As previously reported in ACTSA’s Angola Monitor, despite stepping down as leader of the country Dos Santos remains leader of the MPLA, and with his two children occupying key positions of strategic and economic power in the nation many believe he will continue to hold considerable influence.