from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA, (CAJ News) – THE feud pitting Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ widow and the government in one corner, and his children in the other, is far from over despite a Spanish court ruling the remains of the late former Angola president must be repatriated for burial in his country.
The widening rift is a sideshow in the already tense atmosphere ahead of next Wednesday’s watershed elections that has seen his name crop up as poll preparations reach the final stretch.
On Wednesday, it emerged the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) had ruled in favour of the deceased’s widow Ana Paula dos Santos, who was the government’s interlocutor when the now-late was admitted to a clinic in Barcelona in 2019.
The ruling after a judge received reports from the Legal Medical Institute and the Toxicology Laboratory paves way for the burial in Angola.
It seemingly ends any prospects the deceased’s children had of the ex-nationalist being buried in Barcelona, as reportedly was his wish before he died of cardiorespiratory arrest in July aged 79.
While only recently the children had assented to the government’s request to repatriate the remains for burial back home, it was through their terms.
They even laid the conditions, including that he be buried after the elections, to prevent Lourenco’s government making the most of the burial to promote their electoral chances.
Lourenco is seeking a second term.
The exiled children had also demanded that they be allowed back home and ongoing probes against some of them be dropped. Some of the dos Santos clan are targets of the crackdown on corruption by Lourenco’s administration although critics argue it is a witch hunt by Lourenco to curtail the influence of his predecessor.
The court ruling this week thus is a boost to government and a setback to the children in this protracted battle over interring dos Santos in his final resting place.
No sooner had the Spanish court ruled for the deceased to be repatriated than her 44-year-old daughter Welwitschea “Tchize” dos Santos, through her lawyers, disclosing the court ruling will be appealed.
“There is a civil proceeding about this matter already underway,” a statement attributed to the daughter’s legal team read.
She is challenging the court’s jurisdiction to rule on the matter.
Tchize has been at the forefront of the squabble between dos Santos’ children and the government.
After the death, she filed a legal complaint, also in Barcelona, against dos Santos’ widow and personal doctor, accusing them of “attempted murder.”
Doctors however dismissed allegations if foul play ruled he died of “natural causes.”
Back home, the late dos Santos’ name has cropped up in the final poll campaigns.
The governing People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is intensifying its pre-election battle with the United Patriotic Front (FPU) coalition, of which the MPLA’s longtime rival, National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), is a member.
At a recent rally, Lourenco accused UNITA of receiving funding from the dos Santos family to support the electoral campaign.
“They say they want to fight corruption yet eat from the plate of the corrupt who fled the country,” the incumbent alleged.
That was in reference to the dos Santos children, who include her eldest daughter, Isabel.
Some members of the dos Santos family are accused of enriching themselves when he ruled the oil-rich country between 1979 and 2017 when he handpicked defence minister, Lourenco, to succeed him.
Led by Adalberto Costa Junior, UNITA has denied any relationship with the dos Santos clan.
“It (relationship) doesn’t exist,” Faustino Mumbika, UNITA secretary, told media at a conference.
The opposition and civil society doubt the prospects of the National Electoral Commission holding credible polls on August 24.
The name of another deceased liberation icon, the former UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, has also cropped up.
Among the contentious issues is the voters register which Lourenco’s opponents alleges is stuffed with ghost voters and some deceased people, including Savimbi, who was killed in combat with government forces in 2002.
This ended the war that ensued soon after independence from Portugal in 1975.
MPLA faces its stiffest threat to a stranglehold on power it has held since then. It has taken some measures to ensure the best possible chance of securing victory in upcoming elections.
Laurinda Cardoso, a member of the party’s central committee was in August 2021 appointed head of the Constitutional Court.
The electoral law has been changed to implement a centralised vote-counting system. Votes will no longer be counted at local polling stations, raising qualms this has a potential of manipulating the results.
Amnesty International this week decried a crackdown on human rights amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation compounded by drought-induced hunger in the country’s southern region.
“As the country heads to the polls, authorities must outline their plans to respect human rights, ensure accountability for countless human rights violations, and access to justice and effective remedies for victims,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, said.
Youth-led anti-government protests have grown in major cities since 2018 as socio-economic conditions deteriorate.
Speaking at rally outside the capital Luanda, Lourenco pledged credible polls and appealed for peace.
“Credible mechanisms in the system will ensure respect for the rule of law before, during and after elections,” he assured.
The economic miracle he promised Angolans has largely turned out to be a nightmare as the economy reels from the COVID-19 pandemic and the strains in the global oil economy.
Angola’s economy grew by 0,7 percent in 2021 after contracting by 5,4 percent in 2020.
Some 1,58 million people in south-western Angola are enduring acute food insecurity following the worst drought in four decades.
– CAJ News