The Absent President and Angola’s Future

In the last few months, health concerns have prompted President José Eduardo dos Santos to make several trips to Spain for medical treatment. According to sources who spoke to Maka Angola on condition of anonymity, the President was evacuated to Barcelona on November 9 after falling in the Presidential Palace. Maka Angola has established that the President suffered a prostatic renal crisis, which required him to spend at least 30 days under observation. This is why he missed the Independence Day celebrations on November 11 for the first time ever.

A medical expert explained to Maka Angola that a prostatic renal crisis is a condition in which the urine flow is obstructed by an enlarged prostate and production of urine ceases, necessitating dialysis in the case of kidney failure.

“In the case of kidney failure, a very serious and often fatal situation, patients need regular dialysis. The failure of one of both kidneys may result from a number of clinical situations, including most chemotherapy treatments,” said the doctor, who preferred not to be identified. There has been speculation that the President has had prostate cancer for some years.

Between June and August the President spent more than 40 days outside of Angola, after a set of tooth implants caused him facial swelling. Neither that absence nor the present one have been explained officially. Dos Santos is only human, and no one expects him to be in perfect health condition, particularly at his age of 73. But the Angolans who voted him into power have a right to know where he is and why he is not in the country.

But instead, the head of state’s private travel has been conducted in total secrecy. As the highest servant of the nation, the President is obliged to be open about his whereabouts and his reasons for leaving Angola. By not doing so, the President displays arrogance and contempt for those who elected him.

Even more significant is the fact that the President is not only absent but also silent in the face of recent events in Angola. Since he left Luanda on November 9, the only presidential duty that he is known to have performed was the dismissal, by a distant decree, of the head of the State Intelligence and Security Services, Sebastião Martins.

Dos Santos was silent even after his own presidential guards shot dead Manuel de Carvalho Hilberto Ganga, an official of the CASA-CE opposition party, while he was posting pamphlets on November 23. Later the same day, Angolan police detained nearly 300 citizens, including civic and political leaders, in a crackdown that included the indiscriminate use of tear gas against defenceless civilians who were exercising their constitutionally protected right to public demonstration.

The constant recourse to violence to silence critics and protests reveals the bankruptcy of ideas and of political will on the part of the government and of President dos Santos to solve current political, social and economic challenges. Faced with all this, the President’s absence and silence can only mean one thing: his irrelevance for the future of Angola.

The President needs to declare his state of health to the nation and to begin to withdraw from public life in an open, gradual and orderly manner, in order to take care of his own health.

With Dos Santos’s departure from the political scene, Angola’s future and its transition to democracy can be debated openly and calmly. An important part of this public debate will include the place of the MPLA, the army and the parallel networks of power and influence run by General Kopelipa, Vice-President Manuel Vicente, and their henchmen, in the post-Dos Santos era.