In Stratfor's 2018 Annual Forecast, we wrote that Angola would continue moving away from former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, as his successor, Joao Lourenco, had already begun chipping away at the former ruling family's financial empire. Dos Santos has been powerless to stop the assault on his family's financial gains, and a rumor that he will soon step down could be one of the final nails in the coffin.
One of Africa's oldest leaders may soon leave his position of power — again. In a Jan. 25 interview with French language magazine Jeune Afrique, Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel Domingos Augusto confirmed that the leader of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, will step down from his post in 2018. A party head's departure is not normally a notable event, but dos Santos is a major national figure, having ruled Angola for 38 years before leaving the presidency in 2017. In the interview, the foreign minister also stated that there will be an intra-MPLA party meeting Jan. 25. That gathering will bring dos Santos together with his successor to the Angolan presidency, Joao Lourenco, and could give more clarity on dos Santos' trajectory after retirement.
Dos Santos has previously stated that he hoped to retire from active politics in 2018. However, the transition from his presidency to Lourenco's has not gone as smoothly as he may have planned. Since being elected in late 2017, Lourenco has quickly sought to turn the page on controversial elements of the dos Santos era by removing the former president's family members from positions of power in important sectors of the Angolan economy. This has included, among other things, removing Isabel dos Santos as the head of the country's critically important oil company, Sonangol, and firing Jose Filomeno dos Santos from the state's sovereign wealth fund. Given the loss of his family's lucrative political connections in recent months, dos Santos' impending forced retirement from the political scene may end up having little impact on the direction of Angola in the years to come.