Luanda, Angola: The body of Angola’s José Eduardo dos Santos, who died in Spain last month, arrived in Luanda on Saturday, ending a weeks-long battle over the repatriation of the former president’s body. An AFP reporter at the scene said the plane carrying the bodies landed from Barcelona in the evening in the Angolan capital. Only a few dozen people gathered at Luanda’s airport to welcome the former president’s coffin.

“I had heard he was coming, so I went to greet him,” said Wilson Miguel, one of the attendees. Also in attendance was Ana Paula, who appeared to be in tears as she climbed into her car outside the airport.

Some people applauded as the casket, draped in the Angolan flag, was carried away and a convoy of black cars followed. More people came out into the street to watch the motorcade go by. Some cheered, others chanted “Ze Du!”, Dos Santos’ nickname, as footage was posted on social media.

“We Angolans welcome the remains of President Dos Santos and are proud to be able to give him a dignified funeral,” said another attendee, Thelma Pilartes. Dos Santos, who ruled the oil-rich African nation with an iron fist from 1979 to 2017, died on July 8 at the age of 79 after suffering a cardiac arrest in Barcelona.

Since then, the question of when and where he will be buried has turned the Angolan government and his widow against some of his adult children. It ordered Ana Paula to be handed over and authorized the “repatriation and international transfer of (his) body to Angola”.

Dos Santos’ 44-year-old daughter, Tchize dos Santos, has filed an appeal to challenge the decision. But Josep Riba Ciurana, the widow’s lawyer, told AFP that a judge had granted immediate enforcement of the ruling and allowed the body to leave Spain.

“Ripped from my arm”

“We were the first to be surprised,” Chize’s attorney, Carmen Barrera, said, adding that she learned about the return on television but was “not informed of anything.” He explained that returning to Angola was not an option for some members of the family, so he wanted to hold the funeral in Barcelona.

Several of Dos Santos’ children have faced a string of corruption investigations in recent years. The repatriation comes just days before Angolans head to the polls in the referendum, marking a small victory for President João Lourenco.

Lorenco was addressing a large crowd of supporters at a campaign rally in Luanda when the imminent return of the body was announced. He accused it of using it, describing it as a “shame on the world”.

During Dos Santos’ almost 40-year tenure, while most Angolans struggled with poverty, members of his family tapped into the country’s oil wealth. Upon resigning in 2017, Dos Santos handed over power to former Defense Minister Loulenko.

But Lorenco soon turned against his former patron and launched an anti-corruption movement to recoup billions of dollars he suspected had been embezzled under Dos Santos, a campaign targeting the former president’s family. I released it.

“You took me to the altar … I can’t take you to your last[resting place],” Dos Santos’ eldest daughter Isabel said of her multinational business deal I’ve faced a lot of investigations. “They ripped you out of my arms.” – AFP

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