José Eduardo Dos Santos
Date of Birth: 28/08/1942
Place of Birth: Luanda
Son of: Eduardo Avelino, bricklayer, and Jacinta José Paulino.
Career: Joined MPLA, 1961; guerrilla training, 1961, Congo Kinshasa; MPLA youth leader, Congo; MPLA representative, Congo-Brazzaville, 1963; MPLA communications operator, northern front and Cabinda, 1970-74; MPLA Central Committee, 1974; Foreign Minister, 1975-79; Central Committee Secretary for National Reconstruction, 1977-79; first Deputy Prime Minister, 1976-78; Minister of Planning, 1978-79; elected MPLA President then invested as national President, September 1979; member, MPLA Politburo, 1979 to date; elected President of Peoples' Assembly, 1980 to date.
Commentary: Criticised for being indecisive and withdrawn, President dos Santos
consistently confounds those who underestimate him. A political and
economic dealmaker, Dos Santos started his career with a technocratic
image and rose through the MPLA overshadowed by the man he later
succeeded, the charismatic poet-ideologue President Agostinho Neto.
Few believed that nearly two decades later, he would still be in
office. He owed his survival to an ability to swim in the mid-stream of
the MPLA, maintaining his course against crosscutting currents. Dos
Santos' greatest triumph was the 1992 election campaign when he fought
doggedly against what many believed would be a victory for UNITA's Jonas Savimbi.
Dos Santos' calm public persona and youthful good looks, together with
the promise of a better economic future, captured the public
imagination far more than Savimbi's bellicose threats.
Savimbi in the first round of the elections gave Dos Santos legitimacy,
allowing him to distance himself from the flagging MPLA. Yet his
vacillation in the post-election crisis (when Savimbi cried fraud,
retreated to Huambo and UNITA captured 80% of Angola) rankled
hardliners in the army and the Interior Ministry who demanded a
Relations between the Futungo de Belas presidential palace and the military have not recovered. While Dos Santos' kitchen cabinet of Futungistas, including First Lady Ana Paula, wield executive power on economic and business matters, Forças Armadas Angolanas (FAA) Chief of Staff General Joao de Baptista de Matos runs the military. In November 1994, with the FAA nearing UNITA's Huambo headquarters, Dos Santos promised United States
and United Nations diplomats that he would stop an attack on the rebel
capital : days later, FAA forces entered and overran Huambo. Gen. De
Matos called it a decisive victory and criticised the Lusaka peace
accord (signed then), which halted FAA advances in the north-eastern
Dos Santos' wooing of former enemies, such as the
United States and South Africa, has succeeded spectacularly. His position has strengthened since the fall of Savimbi supporter Mobutu Sese Seko and the coming to power of Laurent Désiré Kabila, a diplomatic and military success for Angola , Rwanda and Uganda.
But the dramatic economic collapse combined with the ad hoc
distribution of Angola's resources - diamonds for UNITA and oil for the
MPLA barons - has sown disaffection with a leadership increasingly
perceived as remote and unaccountable. Recurrent reports of stirrings
in the military, sporadic demonstrations of social unrest and a lack of
presidential direction suggest the biggest threat to Dos Santos came
not from UNITA, but from the society he has ruled.