Angola’s new President João Lourenço is making swift moves to wrest power from his predecessor Jose Eduardo dos Santos, pushing out some of his key allies and vowing to combat monopolies controlled by a family that has run Angola for four decades.
Dos Santos, 75, handpicked Lourenço, 63, to succeed him when he stepped down last month after 38 years in power, prompting critics to suggest the little-known newcomer would be a puppet of the dominant dos Santos family.
But analysts, diplomats and politicians have been surprised by the speed at which Lourenço has tried to take on some of the entrenched vested interests that control sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest economy and second biggest oil exporter.
Heavyweights from the previous administration, such as Vice President Manuel Vicente and Minister of State Manuel “Kopelipa” Hélder Vieira Dias Jr, have found themselves out of a job.
Dos Santos still retains significant power as the head of the ruling MPLA party, and key posts such as the finance minister and central bank governor have not yet been touched.
But in the vital oil sector, responsible for 75 percent of government revenue, Lourenço curbed the control of dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel, who runs national oil company Sonangol.
This month Lourenço appointed Carlos Saturnino, who was sacked by Isabel dos Santos last year, as Secretary of State for Oil, a technically more senior role than that of his old boss.
“It was unexpected at this early stage,” said Marcolino Moco, a former Angolan prime minister and critic of Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
“It’s very early still, but Lourenço is sending a sign that the excesses of the dos Santos era will not continue.”
Isabel dos Santos, Africa’s richest woman, denied any tension with Lourenço, telling Reuters last week that their views were in “full alignment”.