After 37 years in power, president Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola will step down before the country’s 2017 elections, state radio announced on Friday (Dec. 2). Dos Santos, who is Africa’s second-longest serving leader, assumed office in 1979 following the death of the southern African nation’s first president, Agostinho Neto.
João Lourenco, the country’s defense minister, will take over as leader of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party, according to the AFP news agency. Lourenco will be presented at the party’s anniversary celebration on Dec. 10.
“The president will not be a candidate and he already has a successor,” Joao Pinto, a senior member of the party told AFP.
This is not the first time dos Santos has said that he will leave office. In 2001, the powerful leader said he would step down and not run as a candidate in the next elections, but was ultimately re-elected in 2003. In March 2016, he then said he would leave politics in 2018, but gave no hint of resignation plans.
Angola is a huge diamond exporter and is Africa’s largest oil producer. Oil exports alone brought in over $60 billion in revenues in 2014—but that hasn’t lifted large pockets of the country’s 20 million population out of poverty, according to the World Bank.
Using a mixture of patronage and coercion, dos Santos and his family have consolidated political power and amassed billions of dollars in wealth. Isabel, the president’s daughter, is Africa’s richest woman and the head of the state-owned oil company Sonangol.
The announcement about his departure elicited mixed reactions on social media outlets. Some users compared it to the downfall of president Yahya Jammeh in Gambia, a strongman who ruled for 22 years but who was defeated in the Thursday (Dec. 1) elections.