Ex-Angolan president’s body arrives in Luanda amid tense election campaign

  • The former president died in Spain in July
  • His body transported to Angola “after a long period of waiting”
  • Angola to hold elections on Wednesday

LUANDA, Aug 20 (Reuters) – The body of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who died in Spain in July, arrived in the Angolan capital Luanda on Saturday evening, throwing yet another element into a tense election campaign.

“The body of José Eduardo dos Santos has arrived in Angola after a long period of waiting,” government minister Marcy Lopes told reporters shortly after the coffin, draped in the Angolan flag, was removed from the plane.

Critics of the ruling MPLA party feared that with a close election due on Wednesday, the party would seek to politicize repatriation, diverting campaign attention from the main opposition UNITA party. and the electoral process.

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The funeral is likely to take place on August 28, Dos Santos’ birthday, MPLA spokesman Rui Falcao said.

There have been weeks of uncertainty over the former president’s final resting place. Dos Santos, who resigned in 2017 after 38 years in power, died on July 8 at the age of 79 at a clinic in Barcelona, ​​where he was being treated after a long illness. Read more

Lawyers representing dos Santos’ daughter, Tchize dos Santos, had successfully requested a full autopsy citing alleged “suspicious circumstances” of his death, without providing evidence, and requested that he be buried in Barcelona.

A Spanish judge ruled on Wednesday that the death was of natural causes, excluding any criminal act, and authorized the release and repatriation of his body.

Outside the airport, a small crowd cheered as the funeral car carrying Dos Santos’ body drove towards Miramar, his former official residence in Luanda.

Angola is preparing for what will likely be the closest election since the first multi-party election in 1992. The MPLA, which was dos Santos’ party and is that of President Joao Lourenço, has governed Angola since he gained independence from Portugal in 1975. read more

UNITA is stronger than ever and anger is growing at the government’s failures to convert vast oil wealth – Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producer – into better living conditions for all.

Launching his party’s campaign last month, Lourenço urged people to vote for the MPLA to honor Dos Santos’ legacy. Voters will elect a new parliament and a new president.

“It seems like a very transparent maneuver to monopolize the media, as usual,” Jon Schubert, a political anthropologist and Angola expert at the University of Basel, told Reuters, referring to the repatriation of Dos Santos’ body. . Most Angolan media are state-controlled.

“CREATING PEACE”

Some government critics have also expressed concern that the election will be tainted. The government did not respond to a request for comment on election transparency and fraud. The electoral commission, which is mainly controlled by the MPLA, said the election will be fair and transparent. Read more

Some MPLA supporters said the return of the ex-president’s body to Angola was important to them.

Sónia, 41, an MPLA supporter at a large rally in the outskirts of Luanda on Saturday, said: “For us, his return to Angola before the elections shows the importance he had in creating peace in our country. “.

Justin Pearce, a lecturer in history at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, said that while Lourenço struggled to retain his support, he did not believe there was “a deep nostalgia for dos Santos in Angolan society. “.

Although handpicked by dos Santos, Lourenço moved quickly to investigate allegations of multibillion-dollar corruption during the former president’s era. Pearce said it was meant to gain “some popular legitimacy”.

Dos Santos has never specifically responded to allegations that he has allowed corruption to run rampant.

At Saturday’s rally, Lourenço told a cheering crowd that the MPLA had “broken” the taboo on corruption and “really launched the fight against it”.

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Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira, Miguel Gomes, Sisipho Skweyiya and Siphiwe Sibeko in Luanda; Graham Keeley in Madrid and Andrei Khalip in Lisbon; Editing by Frances Kerry and Timothy Heritage

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Catarina Demon

Thomson Reuters

Multimedia correspondent based in Portugal for reports on politics, economy, environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK, co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese speakers living in London and edited a youth-led news site.

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