The newly-elected Angolan President Joao Lourenco has begun cracking the whip on public officials in what appears to be a correction of the wrongs done by the previous regime.
Less than two months after he was inaugurated, President Lourenco has sacked Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the former President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos, as the head of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol.
Isabel, who is the richest woman in Africa, has headed the oil company since June 2016 when she was controversially appointed to the post by her father, who served as the president of Angola for 38 years. Her appointment drew massive criticism from a section of Angolans, who accused the former head of state of nepotism.
Going Against the Grain
The unexpected firing of madam dos Santos has shocked many people since nobody expected President Lourenco, who served as the Minister of Defense under president dos Santos, to go against his former boss’s interests.
Lourenco also served as the vice-president of dos Santos’s ruling party the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He even received dos Santos’s blessings to run as president in the August 2017 legislative election.
But the new head of state seems determined to restore the people’s confidence in the government, with some experts arguing that his success as President heavily depends on the success of Sonangol, which manages the country’s vast oil wealth.
Lourenco has also surprised many by firing the country’s central bank governor and appointing Carlos Saturnino, who was fired by President dos Santos in 2016, as his secretary of state for oil.
Although Angola is among the top five oil producing countries in Africa, its citizens remain stuck in abject poverty, most of them surviving on less than a dollar a day. The country’s oil industry is often shrouded in secrecy, with the former president’s family being alleged to have major stakes in the sector.
According to the latest estimations by Forbes, Isabel dos Santos is worth $3.5 billion, most of which is in the form of assets in major entities in Angola and abroad. Isabel’s firing has been viewed as an attempt by the new president to take the country back from the former first family.
But this undertaking might soon become rather delicate for the 63-year-old president since his predecessor is already a member of the Council of the Republic, a presidential advisory organ whose members cannot be prosecuted.
Dos Santos also remains the president of MPLA and is therefore expected to continue making significant contributions to the party.
by Fredrick Ngugi