For the first time in 38 years, Angola has a new president, on Aug. 25, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) claimed yet another victory as the only leadership the country has known since independence in 1975. Since emerging from a 27-year-long civil war in 2002, the country has held three elections; each time, the MPLA has comfortably beaten its main opposition and former wartime foe, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), each time with José Eduardo dos Santos at the helm. At the end of the 2017 elections, however, the MPLA had a new face on its black, red, and yellow victory banners.
João Lourenço is now Angola’s third president, after the MPLA secured 64.5% of the vote and the necessary parliamentary majority to pick the the president. His predecessors were the deified Augostinho Neto and Africa’s second longest serving leader, dos Santos. Neto was the country’s poet, doctor, and founding president, while Dos Santos led for 38 years, through a brutal civil war that gave way to an oil boom and increasing accusations of authoritarianism and crippling cronyism.
Lourenço campaigned on the promise that he would lead the country in a new direction. His plan is to open the country’s economy to the world and reduce its dependence on the volatile oil price. He also wants to ensure that the infrastructure development that has turned around the capital Luanda reaches the rest of the country.To salvage Angola’s corruption-worn reputation, the new president has already promised potential new international allies greater transparency than his predecessor.
Lourenço has also always wanted to lead. In the 1990s, dos Santos hinted at retiring but it was in fact a trap to weed out the overly-ambitious among his party. Lourenço fell for it and spent years in political purgatory He clawed his way back, and is now deputy president of the MPLA. Optimistically, Lourenço’s assent to Angola’s presidency could very well be a new dawn for the country. From the outside, Angola’s post-war boom has seemed to benefit only the dos Santos dynasty, and the political elite surrounding him.