Former Angolan President Dos Santos Dies at 79

Former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos died Friday in a hospital in Barcelona, Spain, after an illness, the Angolan government said.

Dos Santos died after a  prolong illness.  The announcement said dos Santos, who ruled Angola for almost 40 years from 1979, was “a statesman of great historical scale who governed… the Angolan nation through very difficult times.”

Since stepping down in 2017, he had mostly lived in Barcelona. He had been undergoing treatment for various health challenges.

Angola’s current President Joao Lourenco, announced five days of national mourning starting Friday, when the country’s flag will fly at half-mast and public events are cancelled.

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Dos Santos came to power four years after Angola gained independence from Portugal and became engrossed in the Cold War as a proxy battlefield.

His political journey spanned single-party Marxist rule in post-colonial years and a democratic system of government adopted in 2008. He voluntarily stepped down when his health began failing.

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Angolan President Joao Lourenco.(Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik)

In public, he was unassuming and even appeared shy at times. But he was a shrewd operator behind the scenes.

He held full control on the 17th-century presidential palace in Luanda, the southern African country’s Atlantic capital, by distributing Angola’s wealth between his army generals and political rivals to ensure their loyalty. He demoted anyone he perceived to be gaining a level of popularity that could upset his control.

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His worst nightmare for more than two decades was Jonas Savimbi, leader of the UNITA rebels whose post-independence guerrilla insurgency fought in the bush aimed to oust dos Santos’ Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA.

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