Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Africa's Second-Longest Serving President to Step Down in 2017

Jose Eduardo dos Santos
Angola President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos waits for the arrival of his French counterpart at the presidential palace on July 3, 2015 in Luanda, Angola. Dos Santos is not running for re-election in August after almost 38 years in power. ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty

Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the second-longest serving head of state in Africa, has confirmed that he will not be running in the country's August elections.

Dos Santos, 74, came to power in the oil-rich country in September 1979 after the death of Agostinho Neto, Angola's first post-independence leader. His tenure is one month short of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the continent's longest-serving president.

The Angolan president said at a party meeting on Friday that the country's defense minister, Joao Lourenco, would be the presidential candidate of the governing People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in legislative elections scheduled for August, Reuters reported.

Dos Santos indicated in 2016 that he would not be running for re-election, but has made similar statements before only to go back on them.

He led the MPLA throughout the majority of a civil war that broke out in the 1970s and lasted almost three decades. The MPLA, which was backed by Cuba and other African liberation movements, signed a ceasefire with rebels backed by South Africa and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 2002.

The dos Santos family controls some of Angola's most powerful institutions. The president designated his daughter Isabel dos Santos —listed by Forbes as Africa's richest woman with a net worth of $3.2 billion—as head of the state oil firm Sonangol in 2016. Oil production constitutes almost half of Angola's GDP, according to OPEC.

The president's son, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, is the chairman of Angola's sovereign wealth fund.