José Eduardo dos Santos

João Lourenço Isabel dos Santos President of Angola

José Eduardo dos Santos
José Eduardo dos Santos 3.jpg
Dos Santos in 2007
3rd President of Angola
In office
21 September 1979 – 25 September 2017
Prime MinisterFernando José de França Dias Van-Dúnem
Marcolino Moco
Fernando José de França Dias Van-Dúnem
Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos
Paulo Kassoma[1]
Vice PresidentFernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos
Manuel Vicente
Preceded byLúcio Lara (Acting)
Succeeded byJoão Lourenço
Personal details
Born (1942-08-28) 28 August 1942 (age 78)
Luanda, Portuguese Angola
Political partyPopular Movement for the Liberation of Angola
Spouse(s)Tatiana Kukanova (Divorced)
Second wife (Divorced)
Ana Paula Lemos (1991–present)
Coréon Dú
Alma materAzerbaijan State Oil Academy

José Eduardo dos Santos (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuˈzɛ eˈðwaɾðu dus ˈsɐ̃tuʃ]; born 28 August 1942)[2] is an Angolan politician who served as President of Angola from 1979 to 2017. As President, José Eduardo dos Santos was also the commander in chief of the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) and President of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the party that has ruled Angola since it gained independence in 1975.[3] He was the second-longest-serving president in Africa, surpassed only by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, who took power less than two months before dos Santos.

Early life and education

Eduardo dos Santos, born in what is today the district of Sambizanga in Luanda,[2] is the son of Avelino Eduardo dos Santos and Jacinta José Paulino.[4] He attended primary school in Luanda, and received his secondary education at the Liceu Salvador Correia,[5][6] today called Mutu ya Kevela.

While in school, dos Santos joined the MPLA, which marked the beginning of his political career. Due to repression by the colonial government, dos Santos went into exile in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville in 1961. From there he collaborated with the MPLA and soon became an official member of the party. To continue with his education he moved to the Soviet Union, where by 1969, he received degrees in petroleum engineering and in radar communications,[7] from the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute in Baku, Azerbaijan.[8][9]

Military career

In 1970, he returned to Angola, which was still a Portuguese territory known as the Overseas Province of Angola. He served for three years in the MPLA's EPLA guerrilla force (Exército Para a Libertação de Angola), later known as the People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), the military wing of the MPLA, becoming a radio transmitter in the second political-military region of the MPLA in Cabinda Province. In 1974, he was promoted to sub-commander of the telecoms service of the second region. He was the MPLA representative to Yugoslavia, Zaire and the People's Republic of China before he was elected to the Central Committee[10] and Politburo of the MPLA in Moxico in September 1974.[4]

Political career

Early positions

In June 1975, dos Santos became coordinator of the MPLA's Department of Foreign Affairs; he also coordinated the MPLA's Department of Health at this time. Upon Angolan independence in November 1975, the MPLA held power in Luanda, but the new MPLA government faced a civil war with the other political formations, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). The same year, Dos Santos was appointed as Angola's first Minister of Foreign Affairs upon independence, and in this capacity he played a key role in obtaining diplomatic recognition for the MPLA government in 1975–76. At the MPLA's First Congress in December 1977, Eduardo dos Santos was re-elected to the Central Committee and Politburo. In December 1978, he was moved from the post of First Deputy Prime Minister in the government to that of Minister of Planning.[4]

Dos Santos (fifth from the left) at the Brandenburg Gate during a 1981 state visit, with East German officials

After the death of Angola's first president, Agostinho Neto, on 10 September 1979, José Eduardo dos Santos was elected president of the MPLA on 20 September 1979, and he took office as President of Angola, and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on 21 September. He was also elected as President of the People's Assembly on 9 November 1980.[4]

Peace process

The biggest issue he had to cope with was the ongoing conflict with the main rival liberation movement, the National Union for the Total Integration of Angola (UNITA). UNITA, led by Jonas Savimbi and supported by South Africa and the United States, never fully recognized the legitimacy of MPLA as the ruling government of Angola and triggered several armed conflicts over the years to express its opposition. The resulting 27-year civil war ravaged the country and the Angolan economy.

The war was also marked by intense foreign intervention, since the Soviet Union and Cuba backed the MPLA government and the US and South Africa supported UNITA as a way to limit the expansion of Soviet influence in Africa.[11]

On 29 and 30 September 1992, after 16 years of fighting that killed up to 300,000 people, elections were held in Angola, under United Nations supervision.[12] José Eduardo dos Santos won the election against his main rival, Jonas Savimbi (49.57% vs. 40.07%).[13] However, as he had not reached the absolute majority, a second round would have been necessary for his becoming the constitutional president. This second round never took place, as UNITA declared it did not recognize the election. A three-day war then started, during which the Halloween Massacre occurred, when tens of thousands of UNITA protestors were killed nationwide by MPLA forces. Savimbi then decided to give up on the elections, alleging voting fraud, and immediately resumed the civil war. Meanwhile, dos Santos remained in office.

In 1993, while Savimbi and UNITA refused to give up territory won through battle, the United States, involved in settling peace talks between the two rival parties and leaders in order to work out a power-sharing arrangement, decided to withdraw their support from UNITA and officially recognize dos Santos and the MPLA government as the official ruling body in Angola.[13]

The death of UNITA's leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002 enabled the resumption of peace process. On April 4, the Angolan army and the rebels agreed to a ceasefire, and peace was officially declared on August 2.[14] While recognized as an official political party by the Angolan government, UNITA agreed to demobilize its armed forces, made up of 50,000 fighters, and agreed for them to be integrated into the national security forces.[15] Following that decision, the UN Security Council reopened United Nations offices in Angola and authorized the United Nations Mission in Angola (UNMA), aimed at consolidating peace in the country.[16]

Dos Santos in 2003 with the President of Brazil, Lula da Silva
Dos Santos with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev whilst the latter was on a state visit to Angola on 26 June 2009

Governance issues after end of civil war

In 2001, dos Santos announced that he would step down at the next presidential election.[17] However, in December 2003 he was reelected as head of the MPLA[18] and no further presidential election took place, despite these being announced for 2006,[19] then 2007, and finally 2009.[20] After a legislative election in 2008 in which the ruling MPLA won a landslide victory, the party started working on a new constitution that was introduced early in 2010. Under the terms of the new constitution, the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament automatically becomes the president of the country.

José Eduardo dos Santos reportedly escaped an assassination attempt on 24 October 2010 when a vehicle tried to intercept his car as he was returning from the beach with his family. His escort opened fire killing two passengers in the vehicle, and weapons were found on board.[21] This incident has not been confirmed by any other source. In February–March 2011, and then again in September 2011, demonstrations against dos Santos were organized in Luanda by young Angolans, mostly via the Internet.[22]

In the 2012 general election, his party, the MPLA, won more than two-thirds of the votes. As dos Santos had been the top candidate of the party, he automatically became president, in line with the constitution adopted in 2010.

In September 2014, José Eduardo dos Santos announced the end of the cumulation of the position of provincial governor with provincial first secretary of the MPLA. This measure aimed to improve the operation of the provincial administration and the municipal administrations, as a way to adjust the governance model to a new context and bigger demand for public services.[23]

Contribution to economic development

As President, dos Santos continued the task of economic and political reconstruction begun by his predecessor.

In the early 1990s, dos Santos progressively abandoned the Marxist ideology and established a liberalised free-market economy in Angola, setting the country on the path to becoming sub-Saharan Africa's third largest economy,[24] following South Africa and Nigeria, the second largest African oil producer and a top destination for foreign investment in Africa.[25][26]

In November 2006, dos Santos cofounded the African Countries Diamond Producers Association, an organization of approximately 20 African nations founded to promote market cooperation and foreign investment in the African diamond industry.[27]

José Eduardo dos Santos's role in the development of the oil sector was praised in London, during the opening of the first annual world conference to support the national business sector, which was held in October 2014. The name of the Angolan President was hailed for his commitment in the integration of the national entrepreneurship in the sector and staff training, as well as for his incentive towards young people's training in technical areas, namely in Petroleum Engineering.[28]

The role of the President José Eduardo dos Santos, in the growth of the Angolan economy, was the topic of a lecture held on August 28. The Angolan economist José Pedro de Morais, the lecturer, stressed the various pragmatic steps taken by the Angolan Head of State, in all stages of the complex context of the country. According to the speaker, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has always had to solve complex problems in the leadership of the country's destiny, ranging from war to the pacifying of the spirits of citizens and through economic and political stabilization.[29]


Dos Santos announced on 11 March 2016 that he planned to retire in 2018. This timetable would mean that he would leave office after the next election, scheduled for 2017.[30][31] In December 2016, the MPLA chose João Lourenço, the Minister of Defense and Vice-President of the MPLA, as the party's top candidate and therefore its presidential candidate for the 2017 election, indicating that dos Santos would step aside prior to 2018.[32] Dos Santos stated on 3 February 2017 that he would leave office following the election later in 2017, with Lourenço slated to succeed him. However, he was to remain in his post as President of the MPLA and was therefore expected to continue playing a key role at the top of Angolan politics through the leadership of the ruling party. The fact that his children Isabel dos Santos and José Filomeno dos Santos held key economic posts—Isabel heading Sonangol and José Filomeno heading the Fundo Soberano de Angola—also suggested that dos Santos for some time retained considerable influence.[33]

Controversial issues

Dos Santos has been accused of leading one of the most corrupt regimes in Africa by ignoring the economic and social needs of Angola and focusing his efforts on amassing wealth for his family and silencing his opposition, while nearly 70% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.[34]

Dos Santos became wealthy when he first took power, but only began amassing his incredibly large assets during and after the Angolan civil wars. When the ceasefire occurred and large portions of the economy were being partially privatized, he took control of several emerging companies and industries. He helped arrange similar takeovers of several other natural resource industries.[35]

Eventually the Angolan Parliament made it illegal for the president to have financial holdings in companies and organizations. In response to this, Dos Santos supposedly began arranging for his daughter to receive the financial kickbacks and assets from these companies. Dos Santos then began using the government to take direct control of stakes in companies offered as kickbacks which he indirectly controlled and reaped the benefits of and managed to retain large corporate assets through proxies.[35]

In what has become known as the Luanda Leaks, a vast network of more than 400 banks, companies and consultants was revealed to have engaged in money-laundering for the dos Santos family.[36] Among others, these include firms such as Banco BIC, founded by dos Santos family billionaire associate Américo Amorim, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company and PwC, Eurobic as well as a shell company called Athol Limited.[37]

According to Angolan media reports, Brave Ventures, a firm run by Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, was also implicated in money-laundering activities in its role as a subcontractor for a French consulting firm tasked by dos Santos to oversee the development of the public health system.[38][39]

Along with this, the government budget had grown over a decade to 69 billion dollars in 2012 through oil revenues. The International Monetary Fund reported that 32 billion in oil revenue simply went missing from the government's ledger before being tracked to have been used on "quasi-fiscal activities".[35]

Awards and recognition

José Eduardo dos Santos was named "Man of the Year 2014" by Africa World magazine. According to the newspaper, the choice of the Angolan leader was due to his contribution to the great process of economic and democratic recovery of Angola since the end of the war.[40]

Dos Santos was praised for the major role he played in favour of the country's independence and his commitment to the promotion of peace and democracy in the country, through negotiations with opposition movements designed to put a definite end to the civil war.[41]

A University of Namibia Engineering and Information Technology campus in Ongwediva is named after dos Santos, himself an engineer by profession, for assisting Namibia with attaining her freedom from oppression.[42]

Personal life

José Eduardo dos Santos married three times and has six children from his wives, and one born out of wedlock.[43] His first wife was the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in Azerbaijan.[44][45][46] Dos Santos' and Kukanova's children include Isabel dos Santos, the richest woman in Africa.

With Filomena Sousa, one of his children was José Filomeno dos Santos, who served as Chair of Fundo Soberano de Angola. With Maria Luísa Abrantes Perdigão, one of his children is Angolan artist Coréon Dú.[47]

He is currently married to former fashion model and air hostess Ana Paula dos Santos, whom he married in 1991. He and his family have amassed a significant personal fortune.[48]

In mid-2017, dos Santos twice traveled to Barcelona in Spain on weeks-long visits that were rumored to be related to a medical problem. The government acknowledged that the first visit was related to his health. No official explanation was given for his second visit, from 3 July to 19 July.[49]

Apart from Portuguese, he is also fluent in Spanish, French and Russian.[50]

See also


  1. ^ Position abolished in 2010.
  2. ^ a b W. Martin James and Susan Herlin Broadhead, Historical Dictionary of Angola (2004), Scarecrow Press, page 145.
  3. ^ "Introduction ::Angola".
  4. ^ a b c d Biography at MPLA website Archived 2011-01-22 at the Wayback Machine (in Portuguese)
  5. ^ The Embassy of the Republic of Angola in Abu Dhabi. Adangola.ae. Retrieved on 9 January 2011.
  6. ^ Notícias do Brasil | Noticias do Brasil, Portugal e países de língua portuguesa e comunidades portuguesas. Noticiaslusofonas.com (23 February 2006). Retrieved on 9 January 2011.
  7. ^ East, Roger; Thomas, Richard (2003). Profiles of people in power: the world's government leaders. Psychology Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-85743-126-1.
  8. ^ Biography on the Angolan Embassy Hellenic website Archived 2011-10-03 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Students from Portuguese Africa in the Soviet Union," Journal of Contemporary History, April 2020
  10. ^ Louis Gates, Henry; Anthony Appiah (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. p. 624.
  11. ^ "Angola country profile - Overview", BBC News, Angola country profile, 2015
  12. ^ United Nations Angola Verification Mission II, United Nations, May 1991 – February 1995
  13. ^ a b Parliamentary Chamber: Assembleia nacional- Elections held in 1992, IPU
  14. ^ Angolan (1992–2002). Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts Since World War II, Volume 1, published by Karld Derouen Jr and Uk Heo, p.140.
  15. ^ "Unita signs peace treaty with Angolan army to end 27-year civil war", The Telegraph, April 5, 2002.
  16. ^ "Security Council authorizes establishment of United Nations Mssion in Angola", United Nations, August 15, 2002.
  17. ^ "Dos Santos to bow out", IRIN, 24 August 2001.
  18. ^ "Dos Santos at the helm", IRIN, 17 December 2003.
  19. ^ "Uncertainty increases over election date", IRIN, 16 February 2006.
  20. ^ "New delay for Angolan elections", BBC News, 21 December 2006.
  21. ^ ANGOLA – Zedu targeted retrieved on 9 January 2011
  22. ^ "Manifestação contra Presidente de Angola travada violentamente pela polícia" (manifestation against President of Angola violently repressed by police) Archived 2012-09-16 at the Wayback Machine Público (Lisbon), retrieved 4 September 2011.
  23. ^ "PR cessa acumulação de governador e 1º secretário do MPLA em Luanda", Ango Notícias, September 23, 2014 (in Portuguese).
  24. ^ GDP ranking, Worldbank, Sept 18, 2015
  25. ^ Angola facts and figures, OPEC
  26. ^ Egypt, Angola Attract Most Foreign Investment In 2014, AFK Insider, May 19, 2015
  27. ^ "Angola: African Diamond Producing Countries Ministers Meet" ANGOP, 4 November 2006.
  28. ^ President's figure highlighted in London Angola Press, October 16, 2014
  29. ^ Angola: President's Role in Country's Growth Highlighted All Africa, August 31, 2014
  30. ^ Herculano Coroado, "Angola's veteran leader Dos Santos says to step down in 2018", Reuters, 11 March 2016.
  31. ^ Daniel Garela-Pensador, "Angola's dos Santos says to quit after 36 years in power", Agence France-Presse, 11 March 2016.
  32. ^ Herculano Coroado, "Angola's Dos Santos not up for re-election in 2017 -party document", Reuters, 3 December 2016.
  33. ^ Herculano Coroado, "Angola's dos Santos calls end to 38 years in power", Reuters, 3 February 2017.
  34. ^ Nsehe, Mfonobong (Feb 9, 2012). "The Five Worst Leaders In Africa". Forbes.
  35. ^ a b c Dolan, Kerry (Aug 14, 2013). "Daddy's Girl: How An African 'Princess' Banked $3 Billion In A Country Living On $2 A Day". Forbes.
  36. ^ "How Africa's Richest Woman Exploited Family Ties, Shell Companies And Inside Deals To Build An Empire". ICIJ.org. 19 January 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  37. ^ "Can Western Firms Stop Profiting From Poor Nations' Corruption?". The New York Times. 25 January 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  38. ^ "AFTER THE LUANDA LEAKS, THE DELUGE: THE LID COMES OFF THE PILFERING OF ANGOLA'S WEALTH". Ventures Africa. 3 February 2020 DF. Retrieved 3 March 2020. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  40. ^ "José Eduardo dos Santos is Africaworld Man of the Year 2014", Africa World, December 25, 2014[dead link]
  41. ^ "Jose Eduardo dos Santos: Angola's shy president", BBC News, August 29, 2012.
  42. ^ New Era Reporter (2014-08-11). "Unam centre named after Angola's Dos Santos - New Era Live". Newera.com.na. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  43. ^ "José Eduardo dos Santos, * 1942 | Geneall.net". geneall.net. Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  44. ^ David Smith, "Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', named Africa's first female billionaire", The Guardian, January 25, 2013.
  45. ^ Louise Redvers, "Angola: Who's who in the palace?", Mail & Guardian (Zambia), November 2, 2012.
  46. ^ "Angolan Africa's first woman billionaire", The Australian, January 25, 2013
  47. ^ "Especial dia Internacional da Mulher : Coreon Dú "A mulher angolana que mais admiro é minha mãe Dra. Maria Luísa Perdigão Abrantes"". Platinaline.com. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  48. ^ "Angola's ruling family is worth billions. What happens when dad steps down? - African Arguments". 14 August 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  49. ^ "Angolan president returns from second trip to Spain, condition unclear", Reuters, 20 July 2017.
  50. ^ "Angola : The Untold history of the President Jose Eduardo dos Santos". historyofafricaotherwise.blogspot.com. Retrieved 26 May 2020.