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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Angola's president to stand down
Children next to a ruined block of flats in Angola
Angola has been devastated by war
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has announced he will not run in the next election.

However, the ongoing instability in the country means that a date for that election remains far from clear.

The candidate this time will not be called Jose Eduardo dos Santos

President dos Santos
President dos Santos told the congress of the ruling MPLA that the election could take place in 2002 or 2003.

A spokesman for the rebel Unita movement was not impressed by the announcement.

Carlos Morgado told the BBC's Focus on Africa from Lisbon that it was "very strange".

He said that as no dates had been set for elections, Mr Dos Santos could still remain in power for another 10 years.

Mr Morgado added that Angola's priority was not elections but peace.

Once prosperous

Angola's first and only multi-party election was in 1992. Since then, fighting has ruled out the possibility of another poll.

Angola has been locked in almost continuous civil war since independence in 1975 and the economy of the once prosperous former Portuguese colony is in a shambles.

President Dos Santos
Dos Santos says elections could be held in 2002 or 2003

President dos Santos, who is 58 years old and a former guerrilla fighter, is among Africa's longest-serving rulers, having led Angola since the death of the founding president, Agostinho Neto, in 1979.

In his speech he said that were it not for the crisis caused by Angola's ongoing civil war, he would have announced his resignation a long time ago.

"This party can prepare its candidate for the electoral battle and it is clear that the candidate this time will not be called Jose Eduardo dos Santos," he said.

No heir apparent

However, he emphasised the difficulties that need to be overcome before an election can be held, namely guaranteeing the free movement of people and goods throughout Angola, and the resettlement of people displaced by the war.

Critics have accused him of presiding over massive corruption with top officials amassing private fortunes from Angola's lucrative oil and diamond operations.

Angolan refugee
The war has left over one million displaced people

During the last few years Mr dos Santos has tightened his hold on power, effectively serving both as president and as prime minister. His style of politics has left no room for an obvious heir apparent.

His announcement comes amid quiet but growing pressure for change within the party, especially from those who feel the government should be making more of an effort to seek a peaceful solution to the long-running conflict against Unita.

The BBC's Justin Pearce in Luanda says it opens the way for a battle within the party which is likely to have profound consequences for Angola's future.


A delegation from the American State Department recently visited Angola to determine what conditions needed to be met before the country could hold elections.

They said that most Angolans wanted the long-overdue elections to happen.

But the leader of the delegation said he was not yet in a position to predict when conditions would be right for voting to go ahead.

More than one million people have been displaced by war in Angola since the civil war resumed in 1998.

Unita spokesman, Carlos Morgado in Lisbon
"If elections have no place, we have President Dos Santos for next 10 years"
The BBC's Lara Pawson
"Dos Santos was never a freedom fighter"
See also:

23 Aug 01 | Africa
Profile: Jose Eduardo dos Santos
26 Jul 01 | Africa
Oxfam: Angola must help citizens
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
26 Jun 01 | Africa
Angola rebels attack Uige
12 Aug 01 | Africa
Angola train toll rises
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