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Historic Transfer Of Power Takes Place In Angola


We're used to an inauguration in this country every four years. But what does inauguration day look like in a country that hasn't seen a transition of power in almost four decades? We're finding out this morning in the southern African nation of Angola. The only president generations of people have known is stepping down. A new leader is being inaugurated in the capital, Luanda. And NPR's Eyder Peralta is there. Good morning, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So what are you seeing? What does this feel like?

PERALTA: It's feels like history, right? It is. Right now I am at the memorial of Agostinho Neto. And it's this brutalist, spaceship-looking thing. And it's also an emotional monument that basically shows you the struggle of this country from slavery to centuries ruled by the Portuguese. But there's also a sense of celebration here. People are wearing ceremonial dresses and, you know, I've seen men with some of their finest furs on. So people are taking a moment, I think, to let this sink in.

GREENE: Well, I mean, after the moment sinks in, I mean, we have a country that has been criticized for being so corrupt with all of this oil money and little to actually show for it when it comes to its people. I mean, explain that history.

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, so basically, you know, there has been oil exploration here. And there was a huge peak of money that came in in about 2015. But the price of oil has dropped. And President dos Santos is now - the current President dos Santos is now faced with a country that is struggling economically. And so the new president has to diversify an economy and he has to find a way to give Angolans more of that money that is coming in from the oil.

You know, but it's also very complicated. And I spoke to 61-year-old Maria Rajina Decosta (ph) about dos Santos and how she will remember this longtime president. Let's listen to a bit of what she said.

MARIA RAJINA DECOSTA: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: So she says that dos Santos was the architect of family for Angola. And that alone, it means a lot because it means peace. And we have to remember that this country lived through a long and bloody civil war. But again, I think the biggest criticism I've heard on the street is that they say that dos Santos just has kept all that wealth for his family and has not allowed regular Angolans to enjoy that.

GREENE: Well, so who is Angola's next president?

PERALTA: Joao Lourenco. He is the hand-picked successor. And he was a defense minister, very much a ruling-party guy. And he's seen as a technocratic guy who can get beyond the politics and get things done.

GREENE: And does that include, I mean, dealing with his problem of oil wealth not being distributed to the people in that country? Is there an expectation that he might do that?

PERALTA: I keep hearing two words here, muito complicado (laughter)...

GREENE: I can guess what that means, yeah (laughter).

PERALTA: Very complicated (laughter). And so, you know, one of the things that President dos Santos, the outgoing President dos Santos, has done here is he has made sure that he is immune from prosecution. So he still wields power. He still holds the power at the top of the ruling party. And he's an adviser to the president. And so he cannot be prosecuted. So it's a big question whether or not changes will come.

GREENE: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Luanda, Angola. Eyder, thanks.

PERALTA: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.