Angola is a country located in the region of Central Africa. The People’s Movement for Angola’s Liberation (MPLA) has virtually full control of Angola for decades. The political opposition is weak and divided. After 38 years in power, President José Eduardo dos Santos resigned in 2017. He was succeeded by party comrade João Lourenço, who was expected to reign in the dos Santos spirit, but that was not the case.
The MPLA was the victorious party in the civil war that ravaged Angola in 1975–2002 (see Modern History). The losing side was the then guerrilla movement National League for Angola’s Total Liberation (Unita), which today is the country’s only major opposition party.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Angola, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
President dos Santos, who came to power in 1979, built a system where the president’s power apparatus and his inner circle largely controlled the mass media, the military and the country’s economy, not least the large revenues from oil, natural gas and diamonds. The system gave rise to a parallel economy. Nearly one-third of the state’s revenues did not appear in the budget but were taken care of by the country’s leadership, the military and the state oil company Sonangol. Thanks to this arrangement, Dos Santos daughter Isabel could become Africa’s richest woman with a business empire that includes everything from mobile telephony and diamond companies to the oil industry and banks.
The system contributed to widespread corruption. Angola is usually ranked as one of the world’s most corrupt countries (read more about corruption in Democracy and Rights).
By a new constitution from 2010, the president was given strengthened powers (see Political system) and the general elections for the presidential post were abolished. The amendments gave dos Santos the opportunity to remain as president for two additional five-year terms, calculated from the 2012 parliamentary elections. However, in early 2017, he announced that he did not want to continue as president after the parliamentary elections to be held that year.
The parliamentary elections were held in August 2017 and MPLA won as usual but with a smaller proportion of votes than 2012 (read more about the election in the Calendar).
The party that wins the election also has the right to nominate president and MPLA elected Defense Minister João Lourenço who assumed the post at the end of September 2017. However, Dos Santos remained party leader and sought to secure the order of things through a newly passed law that made it almost impossible for the coming presidents to replace the heads of the country’s security services.
However, Dos Santo’s actions did not prevent Lourenço from going his own way. As soon as he took office, Lourenço initiated a large-scale purge in the administration and the state-owned companies. Lourenço ignored the new law and replaced both the police chief and the head of the military intelligence service. Within a couple of weeks, Lourenço had made sure to replace the dos Santos people with their own allies on a number of key posts, and after only a few months as president, he dismissed Isabel dos Santos from the post of director of the state oil company Sonangol. In early 2018, dos Santos’s son, José Filomeno, was fired as head of the state investment fund. José Filomeno dos Santos was later charged with trying to steal $ 500 million from the Treasury.
The measures were applauded by the opposition but also appeared to have support within the government party. In September 2018, Lourenço was elected new leader of MPLA.
Alongside its fight against corruption and brother-in-law, Lourenço has initiated a series of reforms to boost the important oil industry that has been in crisis since the dramatic fall in oil prices in 2014. Although oil prices have risen in recent years, growth has not started. Widespread unemployment and poverty are still the country’s biggest problems.
Separatism in Cabinda
In the province of Cabinda, a separatist uprising has been going on for many years. The oil-rich exclave is located north of Angola between Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa. 60 percent of the oil pumped up in Angola comes from Cabinda, which generates large income to the country but without making an impression in Cabinda, which obviates the dissatisfaction there. Unemployment is very high and the majority of residents live in poverty.
Cabinda was conquered by Angolan groups and incorporated into Angola after independence in 1975. Throughout the civil war, a number of separatist groups fought for a free and independent Cabinda. In the 2002 peace agreement, Cabinda was given a special administrative status and the rebels were guaranteed amnesty, but the struggle and fighting continued even though separatists were gradually weakened by internal divisions. The largest among the groups fighting for independence is the Liberation Front for Cabinda (Flec).
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Angola/Republic of Angola
republic, unitary state
Head of State
João Lourenço (2017–)
Head of government
João Lourenço (2017–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
People’s Movement for Angola’s Liberation (MPLA) 150, National Association for Angola’s Total Liberation (Unita) 51, Wide Collection for Angola’s Rescue (Casa-CE) 16, PRS 2, FNLA 1 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
People’s Movement for Angola’s Liberation (MPLA) 175, National Association for Angola’s Total Liberation (Unita) 32, Wide Collection for Angola’s Rescue (Casa-CE) 8, PRS 3, FNLA 2 (2012)
76.1 percent in the 2017 parliamentary elections; 62.7 percent in the 2012 parliamentary elections
2022 parliamentary elections
The IMF calls for the fight against the oil industry
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) lending agency calls on the Angolan authorities to fight corruption in the oil industry.
Many arrested after demonstration in Luanda
Police arrest more than 100 protesters marching towards the French embassy in the capital Luanda. The demonstration is being held in protest of widespread corruption among the power holders. The protesters accuse the MPLA government of embezzling billions of dollars of public funds and placing them in France.
UNHCR initiates repatriation
UN Refugee Agency UNHCR launches a “final repatriation” of Angolans who fled the civil war (1975–2002) to neighboring Congo-Kinshasa.
The government concludes an agreement with Flec
The MPLA government concludes a peace agreement with the separatist group Liberation Front for the Cabindaen Slave (Flec) in Cabinda Province in the north.