Angola News

Angolan president reshuffles govt after new charter

LUANDA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos appointed the country’s first vice-president, new finance, mining and public works ministers in a major reshuffle of his government following the approval of a new constitution.

Changes in the government line-up were widely expected since dos Santos, who has been in power for 30 years and dominates Angola’s political landscape, said he would announce a new government as soon as parliament approved the charter.

Angola’s parliament backed the new constitution last month, which replaces the prime minister with a vice-president and also allows dos Santos to extend his rule over one of Africa’s top oil producers without a direct ballot.

He appointed Fernando Dias dos Santos, the head of the national assembly and a former prime minister, as vice president, according to a government statement published on state-owned news agency Angop.

The move is likely to raise speculation that Dias dos Santos is next in line to become president of Angola, although elections are only expected to take place in 2012 and the ruling MPLA party has named President dos Santos as its candidate.

Other appointments include that of two close presidential advisors, Carlos Feijo and Manuel Helder Vieira Dias, also known as Kopelipa, to ministers of state while also serving as heads of the president’s civil and military staff, respectively.

Some senior ministers have been reassigned to new ministerial posts in the incoming cabinet, although Angola’s public works minister Higinio Carneiro, a close ally of the president for many years, leaves the government.

Finance Minister Eduardo Severim de Morais, whose ministry is being investigated for the illegal transfer of millions of dollars abroad, also steps down.

Influential Economy Minister Manuel Nunes Junior, Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos and Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos all keep their jobs.

President dos Santos has promised the new government will crackdown on corruption and implement a series of measures aimed at improving the lives of ordinary Angolans, mostly through investments in agriculture, health and education.

The anti-corruption move should be welcomed by investors in a country where an estimated two-thirds of its 16.5 million people live on less than $2 a day despite Angola vying with Nigeria as Africa’s top oil producer.

Angola is seen as the world’s 18th most corrupt nation, according to watchdog Transparency International.

Angola is also a big diamond miner and was once a major food exporter but a 27-year civil war that took place after the nation’s 1975 independence from Portugal led to a mass exodus of farmers and it now imports almost all of the food it consumes. (Reporting by Paula Castro Lopo, Writing by Henrique Almeida; Editing by Jon Hemming)