Dos Santos died in a clinic in Barcelona on July 8 at the age of 79. His funeral was taking place days after an election that appeared to have returned his MPLA party to power but whose results have been disputed by the opposition.
Dos Santos and his family dominated Angolan politics for the 38 years that he ruled until 2017. His once Marxist party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in power for nearly five decades, looks certain to have won Wednesday’s poll.
His rule was marked by a 27-year on-off civil war against U.S.-backed rebels from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), who he defeated in 2002. The country also enjoyed an oil-fuelled boom, but more than half the population of more than 30 million live in poverty.
“Today we pay tribute to the former president for the contribution he made to the nation as the Architect of Peace,” Social Affairs Minister Carolina Cerqueira said, using the honorific title dos Santos earned for ending a conflict that killed half a million people.
Heads of state and senior ministers from around the continent, as well as the president of Angola’s former colonial ruler Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, attended.
The presence of foreign VIPs enabled authorities to seek to head off possible protests over the disputed provisional results, which gave the MPLA and President Joao Lourenço a 51% majority while UNITA, now the main opposition group, got 44.5%.
The national police force said that due to the state funeral, citizens intending to organise activities should “contain themselves out of respect for the former head of state,” according to a statement reported by the Lusa news agency on Saturday.