After 33 Years in Power, Why is Angola’s President Seeking 5 More?

Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos
Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos

AFRICANGLOBE – Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the country’s long serving leader is seeking five more years in power in order to “rebuild” an already booming economy in a country that suffered nearly three decades of war.

A decade after the ravaging destruction of a 27 year-old war, Angolans are headed to the polls for a second consecutive time. And dos Santos believes that he can pull the southern African country from the ashes of war, despite it now being considered as one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Acknowledging the problems facing the country, the long-serving president said he would invest the nation’s oil wealth into building roads, schools and clinics and make “everyone to feel part of the grand project to make Angola a prosperous and democratic country”.

Dos Santos is certain to retain power by virtue of a parliamentary system of power that saw his party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), raking over 80 percent of the 2008 polls, and widely criticised by the opposition as having been tampered with. UNITA, the biggest opposition scored only 10 percent in the last elections.

Angola’s traditional media’s failure or inability to question his rule, as a result of his party’s omnipresence, has stifled criticism making a series of protests by groups of young activists in recent months to demand jobs, housing, water and electricity unprecedented. While Angola boasts of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the majority of its people still struggle with poverty, with an unemployment rate of about 30 percent.

The cost of living in Luanda, the capital, is such that the European Union sent only two technical experts to observe the elections. Luanda is the second most expensive city in the world after having occupied the top spot a year ago.

In an attempt to win over an increasingly disenchanted youth, dos Santos launched a campaign that sought to appease and attract them, as he described his own poverty-riddled youthful years. The southern African country has a young population with about half below the age of 18. And despite tight media regulations, a more internet-savvy youth have got the political classes vying for their attention.

Sporting a casual look dos Santos told the youthful crowds in one of his campaign speeches that he and his party “know the challenges that Angola faces. We are a realistic, pragmatic party”.

But sailing on the winds of the youth’s disenchantment, the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) is adding a few more supporters to its rank and file. UNITA has also courted young voters with promises of jobs and better living conditions in response to the president’s call to private businesses to join government in creating jobs.

As voters deliberate their choice on Thursday ahead of Friday’s polls, the question is not about whether or not Eduardo Dos Santos’ party would win the elections, assuring him of a 38 year-rule, but rather whether his last term in office would go unperturbed and leave a legacy that dances to the tune of the masses.