Joao Lourenco. Picture: REUTERS
Joao Lourenco. Picture: REUTERS

Lifelong immunity from prosecution: that is what outgoing Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos is guaranteed under a new constitutional position created especially for him. As "president of the republic emeritus honorary" he can now only be judged before a special tribunal.

Dos Santos will also remain the head of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Is it remarkable, then, that for the first time in 38 years, Angola has someone new in the seat of power? João Lourenço — JLo, as he is known in the country — was elected president after the MPLA secured 64.5% of last week’s vote.

Outgoing Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos greets crowds at the ruling MPLA party's final election rally in Luanda, Angola. Picture: REUTERS
Outgoing Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos greets crowds at the ruling MPLA party's final election rally in Luanda, Angola. Picture: REUTERS

On the campaign trail, Lourenço unveiled a plan to open Angola’s economy by letting in private investment and reducing its dependence on oil exports. On the face of it, he could be a new broom. But little is expected to change. In Angola, real power lies with the MPLA.

For the elite — accused of using the state to funnel money to the family of the president — the change of the guard means business as usual.

Angola may be one of Africa’s largest oil producers, but it remains one of its poorest countries. For Lourenço to tackle poverty, he’d have to stand up to the Dos Santos dynasty — but the emeritus president appears to have already put in place steps to ensure he is untouchable.

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