By Africa Bazaar Staff Writer

July 8, 2022

Angola’s longest serving former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos died on Friday at a hospital in Barcelona. He was 79 years old.

Dos Santos, who died after a prolonged illness in a Spanish city’s hospital, ruled Africa’s second biggest oil producer for nearly four decades and his credited with bringing stability to Angola following a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002. 

He stepped down from power five years ago, handing over to the current President Joao Lourenco, his then defense minister whom he handpicked as his successor.

After he renounced power to President Lourenco, Dos Santos moved to Spain and lived in self-exiled, only briefly visited Angola years later. He suffered a cardiac arrest two weeks ago and was admitted to the intensive care unit at Teknon clinic, where he was receiving  medical treatment until his death.

President Lourenco has ordered the country’s flag fly at half-staff and announced a five day national mourning period starting Friday with all public events cancel during the period.

The former president is survived by his wife, Ana Paula and their three children as well as children from his previous marriages and grandchildren.

His oldest daughter, Isabel dos Santos, known as Africa’s richest woman, was accused of corruption and nepotism, which she has denied.

Dos Santo began ruling the country at aged 37 and was seen as an inexperienced politician at the time. But he proved his critics wrong with his perspicacious political skills.  While the country during his administration experienced significant wealth from oil boom, major economic transformation and developments after its civl war ended, Santos’ record is marred by sandals, including accusations of nepotism, human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.

A former Portuguese colony and the seventh largest nation in Africa, Angola won independence in 1975 after the Portuguese withdrew, and elected its first President Agostinho Neto. Dos Santos joined President Neto’s government as foreign minister and was elected President after Neto’s sudden death from an illness, four years after being in power.

The Southern African nation’s brutal civil war pitted Soviet and Cuban-backed MPLA against a South African and US-backed rebel, Jonas Savinbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola.

Dos Santos was lauded for helping to end the civil war and overseeing the country’s economic transformation into becoming one of Africa’s powerhouses.