LUANDA, Angola, Feb 3 – Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos confirmed Friday he would step down ahead of elections due in August, signalling the end to his 37-year long reign, and naming Joao Lourenco as the candidate to run in his place.
The autocratic Dos Santos, 74, became president in September 1979, making him Africa’s second-longest serving leader — one month short of Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
His reign has seen the end of civil war and an investment boom, but has also been criticised as secretive and corrupt with Angola’s citizens suffering dire poverty as his family became hugely wealthy.
Dos Santos told a meeting of the ruling MPLA party in Luanda that “the party approved the name of the candidate heading the list in the August elections as (Defence Minister) Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco”.
Lourenco, a former general, emerged as the probable successor late last year at another meeting of the MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola).
Earlier in the year, Dos Santos had said he would step down in 2018.
The MPLA recently issued a statement denying widespread reports that Dos Santos was seriously ill.
After constitutional changes in 2010, Angola does not directly elect a president, but the leader of the winning party automatically becomes head of state.