After five years in power, he showed his true colors. And even if he denies it, João Lourenço looks a lot like his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos. The Angolan president, elected in 2017 on the promise of being “the man of the economic miracle”, comes out of a trying first term: Covid-19, social protests, fight against corruption sowing discord in his camp and finally death , at the beginning of July, of ex-president dos Santos, triggering tensions with the family of the deceased.
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Despite this obstacle course, the man nicknamed “JLo” should, barring a dramatic change, re-election for a second term after the general elections of August 24, which oppose him in particular to Adalberto Costa Júnior, the leader of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), historical opponent of the ruling party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Whatever the conditions of his re-election, João Lourenço, at the head of an oil giant marked by poor development, will have no choice but to reinvent himself. But how ?
Since his arrival at the presidential palace, “JLo”, born in Lobito in the south of the country, unlike dos Santos who was from Luanda, wants to make his mark by breaking with the past. He is having some success. His finest blow came at the start of his mandate when he launched, drum beating, an anti-corruption crusade – still at work – which earned him the title of “relentless liquidator” and compared to the character embodied by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. A source of enthusiasm, this movement was accompanied by a modernization of presidential communication: reception of voices critical of the regime, regular interviews with a pool of journalists, unprecedented responsiveness on the executive’s Facebook page …
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At the same time, João Lourenço, Minister of Defense from 2014 to 2017, initiated numerous reforms, particularly on the economic level (liberalization of the currency, privatizations, cleaning up of the banking sector, support for SMEs). All these efforts allow it to have arguments to defend its record, which the MPLA did not fail to do during the electoral campaign. Among the achievements: reduction of the public debt, control of inflation, construction of housing, hospitals and schools, financing of more than 1,000 projects for the diversification of the economy and recovery, in three years, of 5 billion dollars in dubiously invested assets.
The problem is that the 68-year-old Angolan leader, a pure product of the MPLA, trained in the USSR like his predecessor, very quickly experiences the syndrome of “chasing away the natural, he comes back au gallop”.