Angola’s Dos Santos marks 30 years in power

AFP-Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos celebrates 30 years in power on Monday amid delays over a new constitution that are likely to extend his marathon rule of Africa?s top oil producer.

Following the death of Gabonese president Omar Bongo in June, Dos Santos is now Africa?s second-longest serving leader behind Moamer Kadhafi of Libya.

But unlike the extravagant parties marking Kadhafi?s four decades of rule, little fuss is expected for Dos Santos who makes few public appearances apart from his widespread image on billboards and official portraits.

“There is nothing planned within the party to mark this as far as I am aware,” Kwata Kanawa, spokesman for Dos Santos? ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) told AFP.

Dos Santos marks 30 years at a time of constitutional upheaval in Angola with the 67-year-old president accused by opposition parties and rights groups of clinging to power and deliberately delaying presidential elections.

A presidential poll — the first since 1992 and only the second to take place since Angola’s independence from Portugal 34 years ago — had been put off this year until a new constitution outlining the electoral system is adopted.

The process has now been further delayed by Dos Santos’s recent suggestion that Angola’s president should be elected by the parliament and not directly by voters.

If the ruling MPLA formally adopts the proposal, after already verbally backing its leader, Angola’s elections could be delayed until at least 2012 for the next parliamentary vote.

Angolan political scientist Nelson Pestana, a member of the small opposition Front for Democracy party, described the proposed election model as “unconstitutional”.

The move was an attempt by Dos Santos to hold onto power and create a “dynasty” where he would rule up until his death, he said.

Dos Santos faces growing international pressure to hold timely polls, after running just once for the presidency in a controversial 1992 poll that re-ignited a long-running civil war.

But most Angolans seem unfazed by how long their president has been in power.

“I think it?s better for our country that he?s in power this long because if we had a new president, they wouldn?t know how to organise the country,” said 30-year-old nurse Isabel Marcelino.

“Some people say the president is doing nothing, but he is doing lots, and every day that passes, our country gets better.”

Nonetheless there is a small collection of voices from within academic and opposition circles using the term “Eduardismo” to refer to the alleged enrichment of Angola’s elite from politics.

“What we are seeing today in Angola is a small minority of people getting richer while there is a majority of people getting poorer and poorer and poorer,” said Alcides Sakala, spokesman for the MPLA’s old war enemy UNITA.

Dos Santos has acknowledged Angola’s massive social challenges after the end of three decades of civil war in 2002 and there are substantial public spending plans in place.

But despite a post-war economic boom, two thirds of the country still lives in poverty.dos

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