- Body of Angola’s former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is scheduled to arrive in Luanda on Saturday.
- Dos Santos died in Spain in July at the age of 79 after a long illness.
- Some fear repatriation of his body could be used to divert attention from the election campaign.
The body of Angola’s former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who died in Spain in July, was scheduled to arrive in Luanda on Saturday, according to the Angolan government, ending weeks of speculation about his final resting place.
Dos Santos, who retired five years ago, died on July 8 at the age of 79 in a Barcelona clinic where he was being treated for a long illness.
Tchize dos Santos, dos Santos’s daughter, had successfully requested a full autopsy citing alleged “suspicious circumstances” of his death without providing evidence and had requested that he be buried in Barcelona.
On Wednesday, a Spanish judge ruled that his death was due to natural causes, ruling out foul play and allowing his body to be released and repatriated.
Some fear that the return of dos Santos’ body to Angola will exacerbate tensions ahead of national elections on August 24, which are expected to be the closest since the country’s first multi-party election in 1992.
The ruling MPLA was dos Santos’ and President Joao Lourenço’s party, and some critics said the repatriation of the body could be used to divert attention away from the main opposition party UNITA’s campaign and the electoral process itself.
“It seems like a very transparent manoeuvre to monopolize the media, as usual” Jon Schubert, a political anthropologist and Angola expert at the University of Basel, told Reuters. Most Angolan media is controlled by the state.
Critics are concerned that the election will be tainted. Angola’s government did not respond to a request for information on election transparency and fraud. The electoral commission, which is dominated by the MPLA, has stated that the election will be fair and transparent.
Some MPLA supporters said the ex-body president should be returned to Angola.
“For us, his coming back to Angola before the election shows the importance he had to creating peace in our country,” said Sónia, 41, an MPLA supporter at a large rally on the outskirts of Luanda on Saturday.
Despite being handpicked by dos Santos, Lourenço moved quickly to investigate allegations of multi-billion dollar corruption during the former president’s tenure, which frequently involved the dos Santos family.
Dos Santos never directly addressed the allegations that he had allowed corruption to flourish.
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