from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – BY reaching a compromise with the deceased’s family to have former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos buried in the country, the Angolan government has for now avoided the humiliation of having its iconic nationalist interred abroad.
However, this has presented a dilemma to the government’s crackdown on corruption, which has been the hallmark of the presidency of Joao Lourenco, the man who succeeded the late president.
The children of the late statesman that led Angola for 38 years until 2017 have agreed to have their father buried in the Southern African country’s capital, Luanda. He is from the Sambizanga district of the province.
The agreement, for now, settles the standoff between the family and the government on whether dos Santos should be buried in his home country or in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where is said he wished to be laid to rest.
The family had demanded that his wish be granted, but government had been eager to have him buried back home. A delegation had gone to Spain for the repatriation of the deceased but returned empty-handed.
His family has since acceded to the request of the Lourenco administration, pending terms and conditions, set by the children of the late.
These are Isabel, José Filomeno Zenú, Welwitschia Tchizé, Joess and José Eduardo Paulino Coreon Dú.
Dos Santos’ children also demand that he be buried after the August 24 polls.
The children also want assurances that Lourenco’s government will not crack down on some of them after the burial.
Some members of the dos Santos family are exiled and fear arrest when they return home, where the government opened a probe against them for allegedly accumulating wealth improperly when their father was at the helm of the oil and diamonds-rich nation.
“Whatever the result of the next elections, in the future, we, the family, together with the institutions and the elected president, will collaborate in the union of the Nation and, with the necessary time, organise the conditions for the homage and the national funeral of the Father of the Nation, our father, José Eduardo dos Santos.”
A letter attributed to the dos Santos family stated.
It could not be ascertained why the burial has to be after the polls but political commentator, Maico Borba, said the children were wary of the ruling party “scoring political points ahead of the elections.”
The governing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power since independence from Portugal in 1975, faces a united opposition front in the upcoming polls.
While the deadlock over the burial appears resolved for now, Borba noted it presented a dilemma for the government in its crackdown against graft.
On one hand, the government apparently is ceding to the demands of dos Santos children to drop graft charges and have him buried in Angola.
Or it could maintain its probes against the implicated children and suffer the embarrassment of having the children having their father buried in Spain and they remain overseas.
“It’s a catch 22 situation,” analyst Borba said.
“As things stand, the dos Santos family has the upper hand in the past with the government,” he added.
The Lourenco government and dos Santos family fell out as soon as the administration opened a probe against the latter as part of the clampdown on corruption, which is denounced as the hallmark of the dos Santos reign.
Critics however have dismissed the blitz as targeting the prominent family and the former president’s allies.
Once considered the wealthiest woman in Africa, Isabel faces a probe in Angola and Portugal for alleged corruption.
She is the former head of the state-owned oil company, Sonangol Group.
Jose Filomeno is serving a five-year sentence meted in 2020 for fraud and money laundering.
He was the chairman of the sovereign wealth fund (FSDEA).
Dos Santos died on July 8 at a medical centre in Barcelona, at the age of 79.
He was in a critical condition after suffering cardiorespiratory arrest in June but his family suspected foul play and demanded an autopsy, which concluded he died of “natural causes.”
There were allegations the government asked doctors to switch off the former leader’s life support machines.
At a recent mass election rally in Luanda, Lourenco said winning the elections would be the ideal way to honour the memory of dos Santos.
“We owe the peace and national reconciliation that we have lived for about 20 years to him,” the president said of the deceased.
While his presidency was shrouded by allegations of corruption and nepotism, dos Santos is credited with ending one of Africa’s longest running civil wars in 2002.
A ceasefire with the fellow liberation movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), ended the war that began shortly after independence and claimed the lives of an estimated 800 000 people.
– CAJ News