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Dos Santos funeral fails to quieten claims of voter fraud 

Oppositionists and family of former president accuse MPLA government for exploiting obsequies for political gain

On 29 August, the Comissão Nacional Eleitoral (CNE – electoral commission) announced that President João Lourenço had won with 51.5% in what it describes as 'fair and transparent' national elections five days earlier but it failed to address civil society and opposition claims of systematic vote theft (AC Vol 63 No 17, A tale of two elections).

A parallel vote count organised by civil society groups and based on results posted outside polling stations in accordance with electoral law, had shown the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) with consistently under 50% of the vote against the backdrop of the weakening economy (AC Vol 63 No 17, Economic woes challenge election winner).

And the MPLA government's decision to stage a state funeral on 28 August for former leader José Eduardo dos Santos, who died in Spain last month, triggered a new row with his family, some of whom accused Luanda of using the obsequies to silence protests against claims of electoral fraud (AC Vol 63 No 15, Dos Santos haunts Lourenço's campaign).

Several leaders, including South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa flew to Luanda for the funeral. Social Affairs Minister Carolina Cerqueira marked the occasion with a paean of praise to Dos Santos: 'Today we pay tribute to the former president for the contribution he made to the nation as the Architect of Peace.'  Supporters of Dos Santos credit him with ending the country's civil war in 2002.

On 27 and 28 August state security said the arrival of delegations for the Dos Santos funeral meant it would bar all public demonstrations. Until then opposition activists had been organising sporadic protests against results announced by the CNE. It said União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA, the main opposition party) had won 44.5%. of the votes.

Outside diplomatic niceties, relations between Lourenço and Dos Santos had deteriorated badly over the last four years – mainly due to the former first family unwillingness to help the new government track down stolen funds.

Dos Santos's burial was delayed by the family's request for an autopsy; they stepped up criticism of successor president Lourenço after he launched widespread anti-corruption investigations against them and some of the most senior figures in the old regime.

Two of Dos Santos's daughters, Isabel and Welwitschia 'Tchizé', accused of stealing state funds under their father's presidency, are in exile. José Filomeno 'Zenu' dos Santos, a son of the former president, has been jailed for five years for fraud linked to the country's sovereign wealth fund.

Tchizé openly supports opposition UNITA and has accused the Lourenço government of trying exploit her father's legacy. She said her father would have voted for the opposition in this year's election. 'The funeral is shameful… because it is trying to hide what many people are calling a scandalous [election] fraud,' said Tchizé on social media.

UNITA's presidential candidate Adalberto Costa Júnior, has rejected the election results and his party is likely to appeal through the courts with little expectation of success (AC Vol 63 No 17, MPLA on uncertain ground).

Its leaders have been discussing how they can use the party's increased strength in parliament and the official results which make it the most popular party for the first time in Luanda, where about a third of Angolans live (AC Vol 63 No 12, Why UNITA could cause an upset in August).

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