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 Thursday, 5 December, 2002, 18:12 GMT
Angola gets new premier
President dos Santos
The president will keep hold of the reigns of power

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has appointed a new prime minister, an office that has been vacant for more than three years.

The new premier will be Interior Minister Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, usually known as Nando. He is a close ally of the president and the choice comes as no surprise.

The announcement comes as the government and the former rebel movement, Unita, discuss a new constitution for Angola.

Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos
Nando: A close ally of Dos Santos
They have agreed that most powers will continue to be vested in the president.

The appointment of a prime minister marks a step towards political normality in Angola.

Angola has not had a prime minister since 1999, when President Dos Santos sacked Marcolino Moco, and then failed to appoint a successor.

The president started performing the functions of prime minister in a way which some political analysts argued was contrary to the Angolan constitution.

Limited powers

Nando is among the president's closest allies, which is probably just as well - the two previous prime ministers sacked by the president during the 1990s have been seen as scapegoats who were the first to pay the price when the government was in difficulty.

The interior minister has also been in the political spotlight recently, representing the government in talks to finalise the peace agreement with Unita, and chairing the interdepartmental commission for the rehabilitation of former soldiers.

Yet it looks as though Nando's powers might be more limited than he title of prime minister might suggest.

His appointment comes at a time when the government and Unita have announced some progress in talks on a future constitutional model for Angola - and one of the points of agreement was that the president, and not the prime minister, would continue to be the head of government.

Under the constitutional proposals, the president would also retain the right to appoint and dismiss the prime minister, as well as the provincial governors.

The main concession made to Unita seems to be that president will now have to select a governor from whichever party wins the parliamentary election in that particular province.

Jonas Savimbi, killed after 26 years of civil war

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25 Nov 02 | Africa
23 May 02 | Africa
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