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Angola’s opposition seeks answers on dos Santos’ health

By Asma’u Ahmad

Angola’s opposition has on Friday called on the government to reveal the state of President Jose dos Santos’ health amid reports that Africa’s second-longest ruler is seriously ill at a hospital in Spain.

The 74-year-old dos Santos, who has run the oil-producing southern African nation since 1979, left Angola at the start of May on what was officially billed as a two-week ‘private visit’ but is yet to return.

State media, the only channel through which the government communicates, has maintained total silence on the issue, despite of a report on an Angola-related Facebook on May 8, saying dos Santos had died.

President Jose dos Santos

His daughter, Isabel dos Santos, took to Instagram at the weekend to knock down the report, dismissing it as “fake news”, but did not provide any additional information, fuelling more rumors and speculation.

“Someone has gone so low as to invent information about the death of a man in order to create confusion and turmoil in Angolan politics,” Isabel, who is also head of state oil firm Sonangol, said.

Attempts to obtain comment from dos Santos’ spokesman were unsuccessful. Raul Danda, parliamentary president of the opposition UNITA party, said the lack of clarity about the health of the man who has been central to Angola’s stability since the end of a long civil war in 2002 was becoming a national security issue.

“The health of the President is a matter of concern to everyone, but the problem is that everything about the health of the President is top secret.

“Dos Santos, a Soviet-trained oil engineer and veteran of the guerrilla war against Portuguese rule, rarely appears in public but the last time Danda saw him, he did not look well, he told Reuters in Johannesburg.

Dos Santos traveled to Barcelona in 2013 for what was widely reported at the time as treatment for prostate cancer.

Angola is due to hold a general election on August 23 that will mark the formal end of dos Santos’ 38 years at the helm of Africa’s number two crude producer and third-largest economy.

His ruling MPLA party, in power since independence in 1975, is almost certain to win a large majority, putting Defence Minister Joao Lourenco, 63, its presidential candidate, into the top job.

However, dos Santos is due to continue as head of the MPLA, leading many Angolans to believe that if his health endures he will remain a powerful force in domestic and regional politics.

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