President José Eduardo dos Santos (1942 - )
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of President José Eduardo dos Santos
President José Eduardo dos Santos was born in a Luanda shanty town in 1942, the son of a bricklayer. He joined the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola) in 1961 and worked under illegal conditions in Luanda.
He resolved with a group of his friends to leave Angola to undergo training with the movement, which had been driven into exile after the Luanda Uprising of 4 February 1961. He spent six years in the Soviet Union where he graduated as a petroleum engineer. He then underwent further military training and became, on returning to Angola, the head of the MPLA’s communications machinery, which coordinated links with all the movement’s battlefronts.
After independence, he became Angola’s first foreign minister, later becoming the first vice-premier and gaining experience in the day-to-day running of government. In December 1978, he became Minister of Planning in the Government. Dos Santos is the current President of Angola, serving in this position since 1979.
He is also president of the MPLA. In 1975, his party faced a civil war with the rebel groups the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) and the National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). Being Angola’s Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, he played a key role in obtaining diplomatic recognition for the MPLA Government from 1975 to 1976.
Dos Santos is an honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. He played an important role in ensuring continued Angolan support for the liberation movement during the struggle for freedom. Angola hosted Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) camps and fought side-by-side with MK soldiers against the South African apartheid security forces.