By Gary van Staden, Senior Political Analyst, NKC African Economics
The unceremonious dismissal of yet more of former President Eduardo Dos Santos’ loyalists by President Joao Lourenco, including top brass in the military and intelligence, suggests the new president has been emboldened by his successes so far and the lack of resistance within the old Dos Santos empire and that more heads are going to roll.
While the actions taken against the Dos Santos family – daughter Isabel Dos Santos was removed as head of the State-run oil company Sonangol and his son, José Filomeno Dos Santos, was charged with fraud – raised little resistance, it was assumed that the old president had shored up his support in the military and dismantling that power base would be significantly more difficult. That was not the case.
Reuters reported this week (Monday April 23) that Lourenco had sacked the chief of staff of the armed forces, General Geraldo Sachipengo Nunda, and the head of the foreign intelligence agency, André de Oliveira Sango, in what was described as the latest moves against officials tainted by graft allegations or links to his predecessor.
Reuters stated that General Nunda had been named by prosecutors last month as a suspect in an investigation into allegations of fraud. Mr De Oliveira Sango, a Dos Santos loyalist, had been head of foreign intelligence for over a decade.
The next and most obvious goal for the new regime would be to remove Dos Santos from his position as leader of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), but that may prove more difficult and we expect Lourenco to further dismantle the old president’s power base outside of the ruling party before making that final assault.
But it does appear to be inevitable that at some point his leadership role in the ruling party is going to come under attack.
While we remain uncertain of his ultimate agenda, the new president can be expected to continue to mobilise against the Dos Santos empire on all fronts using allegations of graft, corruption and fraud as weapons of choice as well as the politics of renewal and improved governance.
While significant economic or political reforms have yet to make an appearance, it is likely that such reforms would have been hindered by the continued presence of Dos Santos power structures and that it probably makes sense that those be tackled first.
The new broom has yet to make any fundamental policy shifts that would likely improve the lot of ordinary Angolans, but there is for the first time in many years the prospect of such improvement – time will tell.