Angola Table of Contents

When Neto died in September 1979 in a Moscow hospital, he was still in the process of consolidating his power and reconciling with former opponents. To his credit, the internal party cohesion that he fostered allowed a smooth transfer of power to JosÚ Eduardo dos Santos, a Soviet-educated Mbundu who had served as first deputy prime minister and then as minister of planning following the December 1978 reorganization.

Despite his student years in the Soviet Union, dos Santos was a moderate with a pragmatic outlook, not unlike that of Neto. He soon expressed his preference for a mixed economy with an important role for the private sector. The direction in which he guided the MPLA-PT was especially telling. He pushed for the promotion to the Central Committee of four moderates--Manuel Alexandre Rodrigues (nom de guerre Kito; Mbundu), Kundi Paihama (southern Ovambo), Paulo Jorge (mestišo), and Roberto de Almeida (mestišo). The ethnic backgrounds of these four men also demonstrated the new regime's continuing commitment to broadened representation in the top party leadership. Nonetheless, no Ovimbundu--the largest ethnic group and the one to which Savimbi belonged--was a member of the Political Bureau. Dos Santos defended this omission by explaining that there were no politically educated Ovimbundu who could fill top party positions. The promotion of Minister of Foreign Relations Jorge to full membership in the Central Committee was especially significant because, during the Neto regime, Jorge had initiated contact with the West and maintained the flexible foreign policy that characterized that regime, despite Soviet objections. Minister of Domestic and Foreign Trade Almeida, also promoted to full Central Committee membership, was an active participant in the fostering of Angola's economic ties with the West as well.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress