Angola’s former strongman president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, whose nearly four-decade rule was marred by graft and nepotism allegations, was buried in Luanda on Sunday despite a family row over his final resting place. The funeral was held at the historic palm tree-lined Praca da Republica in the seaside capital on what would have been dos Santos’s 80th birthday.
It comes days after his party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) — which has ruled the oil-rich country for nearly half a century — saw its worst electoral results in the most hotly contested polls since independence.
Dos Santos — who died last month following a cardiac arrest — will be remembered as a “statesman and devoted pan-Africanist”, Namibia’s ex-president Sam Nujoma, 93, told the hundreds of mourners in attendance. A choir sang dirges while flags flew at half-mast around the square, which houses an imposing concrete mausoleum where the country’s founding president Agostinho Neto is interred.
Dignitaries including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s leader Felix Tshisekedi and Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa filled rows of white and gold seats. Josiane dos Santos, the late leader’s daughter, sobbed while recalling her father’s love for music.
During Angola’s war for independence, the young “Zedu”, as he was called, began his career as a revolutionary by recording LPs that encouraged the fight against coloniser Portugal while he took refuge in neighbouring DRC, she said. A 21-gun salute rang as a portrait of dos Santos was carried ahead of the coffin, supported by military-clad pallbearers, in a slow procession to a specially built tomb behind the Neto mausoleum where he was buried.
Dos Santos was referred to by many, particularly MPLA members, as the “architect of peace” who brought democracy and multiparty politics to the country.—AFP