Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has confirmed that he will not run in 2017 presidential elections.

His decision will mark the end of an era for the 74-year old, who has been in power for 38 years, in the Southern African country.

But he intends to retain control of the powerful ruling MPLA party.

The country’s Defence Minister, Joao Lourenco will run for presidency in the MPLA ticket.

The announcement marks the end of era for Dos Santos who is listed among the longest-serving African leaders. He will hand over the reigns to a new Head of State after the elections in August.

But his opponents remain suspicious, saying he has reneged on similar pledges to step down before.

Despite leaving the Presidential office, dos Santos will remain a force in the oil rich country. He will retain the leadership of the ruling People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola, and this will allow him to choose parliamentary candidates as well as appointing top posts in the army and police.

During his tenure, he oversaw an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year long civil war that ended in 2002.

The war was waged by Jonas Savimbi and western backed allies including apartheid South Africa, while, the MPLA enjoyed the backing of the Soviet-backed socialist Cuban government.

After the fall of the Berlin wall, the world re-aligned and the Angolan war was no longer a priority and the war ended in 2002.

The MPLA won parliamentary majorities in the three elections since the end of the war.

Angola, an OPEC member and Africa’s second biggest oil exporter behind Nigeria. But the slump in global crude prices in the last two years saw Angola going
through hardship.

Oil export revenues account for more than 90% of foreign exchange revenues.

– By REUTERS