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Angola Buries dos Santos While Election Unsettled

FILE: Remains of former President José Eduardo dos Santos arrive at Praça da República, in Luanda, for public tribute. Taken Saturday, 8.27.2022

Amid post-election tensions, Angola held a funeral on Sunday for long-serving ex-leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who died in Spain in July but whose burial was delayed by a family request for an autopsy.

The ceremony took place in the capital Luanda on what would have been dos Santos's 80th birthday, and comes days after his party, the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), saw its worst results at the polls in the most hotly contested elections since independence, held August 24.

Dos Santos died last month at a clinic in Barcelona following a cardiac arrest.

Some of his children were at loggerheads with the government and his estranged wife over where and when he was to be buried.

But a Spanish court last week ruled that the body be returned to his wife in Angola.

His eldest daughter Isabel dos Santos, who has faced a slew of investigations into her multinational business dealings, last week wrote on Instagram that she would not be able to attend the funeral.

The former president's eldest daughter, Tchize, added her voice to accusations by opponents of the government that the timing of the funeral was a deliberate distraction.

"The funeral is shameful ... because it is trying to hide what many people are calling a scandalous (election) fraud," she said in an audiotaped message on her Instagram account.

The authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

The presence of foreign VIPs at the funeral enabled authorities set up security blocks to possible protests over the disputed provisional election results. The final official announcement had still not been made at the time of dos Santos' funeral.

After 97 percent of the results were tallied, an initial count showed the MPLA, led by incumbent president Joao Lourenco, had won 51.07 percent of the vote, with 44.05 percent for the party's main rival, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

UNITA's leader, Adalberto Costa Junior, has rejected the election results, and there have been sporadic protests that were quickly shut down by police.

The electoral commission has repeatedly said the process was fair and transparent.

However, five members of the election commission have threatened not to sign off the results.

"Let's hope that... a solution can be found to what is happening in the country", commissioner Francisco Vieira told a press conference on Saturday.

Although he was handpicked by Dos Santos to succeed him, Lourenço moved quickly to probe allegations of multi-billion dollar corruption and nepotism during the former president's era. Those investigations landed dos Santos' son in jail and saw assets linked to one of his daughters, Isabel, frozen. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Under dos Santos's tenure, Angola became one of Africa's top oil producers. While dos Santos and his family reaped vast wealth from Angola's resources, most of the country's 33 million people remain among the poorest in the world.

As one of the longest-ruling African leaders, he established himself as a political heavyweight beyond the country's border. His MPLA party has dominated Angolan politics since the nation freed itself from Portugal in 1975. The MPLA was engaged back then with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose 1959 revolution was an inspiration for the MPLA's struggle against Lisbon.

This report was prepared using information sourced from Reuters and Agence France-Presse