UNITA, a former rebel group turned political movement that lost a disputed election last year, has said it wants to initiate a parliamentary process to remove Lourenco from office, accusing the 69-year-old of being authoritarian.
“Someone is responsible for famine, unemployment and the jailing of demonstrators. Who is he?” UNITA leader Adalberto Costa Junior asked a crowd of supporters waving red and green flags — the party colours — in Luanda.
“Joao Lourenco!” came the reply.
The demonstration was organised to celebrate the birthday of former UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, whose death at the hands of the army in 2002 marked the end of a 27-year civil war between UNITA and Lourenco’s ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).
But it was used to pile pressure on the government amid popular discontent at poverty, corruption and a shaky economy.
“UNITA is trying to capitalise on the widespread social discontent in society,” said independent analyst Marisa Lourenco, who is not a relative of the president’s.
The oil-rich southern African nation has experienced a wave of protests since the government cut subsidies for petrol in June.
The move was aimed at curbing government spending, as the economy suffers from a slide in oil prices that has weakened the local currency, the kwanza. But it resulted in unpopular sharp fuel price hikes.
“We have a government that does not deserve Angolans,” Costa Junior said.
“Down with the robbers, down,” chanted the crowd.
Under Angola’s constitution, the president can be removed from office if he is considered to have committed acts that threaten democracy.
But UNITA is yet to say when it intends to initiate proceedings and has been scant on details over the specific charges against Lourenco.
The opposition might be hoping to exploit divisions within the ruling party via a secret ballot but observers say the initiative is unlikely to succeed.
Removing the president requires a two-thirds majority vote in parliament and support from the courts. The MPLA, in power since 1975, controls both, said Lourenco, the analyst.
The MPLA has dismissed UNITA’s efforts to remove the president as “unserious” and “undemocratic”.