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Angola: Death of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola like a corrupt family business for nearly four decades

Wednesday 20 July 2022, by siawi3

Source: Africa Is A Country

Here or in Europe

July 20, 22


by Sean Jacobs

The death in Barcelona last week of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola like a corrupt family business for nearly four decades, was a bit of an anticlimax. He has been out of power since 2017, but as we learned this week, even in death he still has some influence on the country’s politics.

Very few Angolans will mourn Dos Santos’s legacy: one that was venal, violent, wasteful, vindictive, corrupt, and that enriched his family and cronies. His rule is, unfortunately, another exhibit of the bankruptcy of post-colonial elite politics on the African continent. Dos Santos used Angola’s oil wealth to ensure one of his daughters, Isabel, became Africa’s richest woman (the pop star Nicki Minaj, when she is not tweeting COVID-19 misinformation, once stupidly referred to Isabel as “girl power”). Isabel’s late husband, Sindika Dokolo, whose father was an influential banker in Mobuto’s Zaire, was also accused of widespread state corruption. One of Jose Eduardo’s sons, José Filomeno dos Santos, ran the country’s sovereign oil fund. The Dos Santos family acted with impunity as Western governments, firms, banks, the art world, and universities, looked away, colluded in the looting, or made PR for them.

Jose Eduardo Dos Santos’s successor as president, João Lourenço, also from the MPLA—the party that dominated the struggle against Portuguese colonialism and then governed uninterrupted since 1975—went after Dos Santos’s children, mostly it seems to placate donors. Isabel is now in “exile” and José Filomeno dos Santos is on trial in Luanda. Now we read—in scenes that liken a story arc in a scripted “reality show”—that Jose Eduardo Dos Santos’s family is holding his body hostage in Spain, presumably to “negotiate” lighter sentences from the Angolan state, and that João Lourenço, who is very unpopular, wants Dos Santos’s body back as it would help in elections later this year.

The New York Times has a great summary of the bizarre events of the last week. You can also read our archive on Angola’s postcolonial politics. The last word goes to a Luanda street cleaner, Avenina de Vasco, interviewed by The New York Times, about what ordinary Africans make of all these selfish plays of their ruling elites: “Do you know how much my husband and I earn? And do you who know whose fault it is for the dire situations my family and clearly most of the Angolans now face? The MPLA and dos Santos ruled for a very long time. So I don’t care whether he is buried here or in Europe or America.”

– Sean Jacobs, editor