One persistent political discourse in Africa hinges on the unwillingness of many African leaders to relinquish power when their time is up. Most, if not all, scheme their way through the constitution to allow them stay in power beyond their legal term.
This is usually done through a referendum to modify constitutions that may have taken years, if not decades, to put in place. The examples are many: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Chad and Zimbabwe, just to name a few.
In the case of Angola, the story has been different. True, President José Eduardo dos Santos has been at the helm of affairs since the death of Angola’s independent leader, Augustino Neto, in September 1979. But even after Neto’s death he ran a country that was writhing in a fratricidal civil war tore the country apart until 2002
The country did not experience sustained civil rule until after the 2008 general elections. He won another term in 2012. Then last November, he decided he would not stand for another term in the August 23 polls and made it abundantly clear that he was going to quit politics. Angola is now barely a month to Presidential elections and he has certainly made good that promise.
By the time the new president is sworn in, President dos Santos would have ruled Angola, in total, for about 38 years, making him the second longest serving African president after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo who has been in office since 03 August 1979.
Mbasogo is not the only one in this category. Ninety three year-old President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been at the helm of his country since April 1980 when he became Prime Minister of Independent Zimbabwe and later in December 1987 as President. There is also Cameroon’s Paul Biya who succeeded Ahmadou Ahidjo on 6 November 1982, and Yoweri Katuga Museveni who rules Uganda since 29 January 1986.
When President dos Santos bids his final farewell to partisan politics later after the elections, he would have paved the way for others to follow. And he will then join the ranks of Leopold Sédar Senghor who resigned before the end of his fifth term in December 1980, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania 1964- 1985, Sir Ketumile Masire of Botswana, 1980-1998.
Angola’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Osvaldo dos Santos Varela says of the August 23 elections: “They will be very free and fair as the National Electoral Commission has put in place all the necessary apparatus to make the process very transparent.” He says no party is being marginalized. All public amenities are being used equally and throughout the country. He gave examples of airtime on radio and television which he said is equal for all political parties without exception. Voters’ registration has been done and could easily be consulted on the Commission’s website.
Six political parties are fielding in candidates for the presidential chair. These are the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, (MPLA,) The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA,) the Angolan National Party, (ANP,) the Social Renewal Party (PRS,) the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA) and the CASA-CE which is a coalition of six smaller parties.
Voters will be electing 130 members of the National Circle, and five members each of the 18 Provincial Circles, making in all 220 members.
In the election list, the person with the highest votes becomes the president and the second person the vice president.
Some political analysts suggest MPLA and UNITA will lose some votes in the election as some disaffected members have swung their allegiance to the new coalition CASA-CE which is likely to beat UNITA to become Number 2 party in the country, but will not have enough supporters to unseat MPLA as the ruling party. MPLA is surely going to win the election.
As Jose Edwardo dos Santos bows out he would have left a country with economic, political and social stability which was hard to come by barely a decade ago when the country was gradually reeling out of decades of civil war that threatened its entire fabric.
Today Angola ranks amongst the top African nations with rapid economic growth and that is evident not only in the capital, Luanda but also in all the provinces. There are new roads, hospitals, schools, housing complexes for the ordinary Angolans, stable energy supply, a revamped railway system and its mining industry has been revitalised.
Photo: President dos Santos