Angola's Dos Santos sworn in, pledging social improvements

Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:58pm GMT

By Shrikesh Laxmidas

LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola swore in an elected president for the first time in its history on Wednesday, with long-serving leader Jose Eduardo dos Santos taking the oath for a fresh five-year mandate on top of his 33 years at the helm of Africa's No. 2 oil producer.

Dos Santos has been in power since 1979 and is Africa's second-longest serving leader after Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Until his MPLA party comfortably won an election last month, he had never been elected directly into office.

Angola's violent past - the country emerged from a 27-year civil war a decade ago - meant that the August 31 election, which the MPLA won with 72 percent of the vote, was only the third ballot since independence from Portugal in 1975.

A presidential election in 1992 was aborted mid-way and a 2008 vote only elected lawmakers. Dos Santos introduced a new constitution in 2010 which stipulated that the leader of the winning party in a general election becomes president.

"The fact that only today we hold a formal inauguration ceremony means that this time all the previous possible doubts have been clarified," Dos Santos said after taking the oath.

Opposition parties and civil society activists had called last month's election one-sided and accused the MPLA of using the national elections commission to rig the vote. However, foreign observer missions gave the vote broad approval.

The setting of the ceremony - under a soaring rocket-shaped monument in honour of the southern African country's first president Agostinho Neto, whose death from illness opened the way for Dos Santos to reach power - remembered Angola's past.

But Dos Santos' speech was mostly about the future.   Continued...

Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos shows off his inked finger to photographers after casting his vote during national elections in the capital Luanda, August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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