Angolan left-wing politician, president 1979–2017, and leader of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). By 1989 he had negotiated the withdrawal of South African and Cuban forces, and in 1991 a peace agreement to end the civil war. In 1992 his victory in multiparty elections was disputed by Jonas Savimbi, leader of the rebel group National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), and fighting resumed, escalating into full-scale civil war in 1993. Representatives of the two leaders signed a peace agreement in 1994. Dos Santos' proposal to make Savimbi vice-president was declined by the latter in 1996, but in 2002, soon after Savimbi's death, UNITA surrendered and signed a definitive peace agreement. From the early 1990s he abandoned a Marxist economic programme and adopted a pragmatic, market-centred approach. This saw Angola enjoy strong economic growth from the 2000s, based around its oil and diamonds wealth. He retired as president in September 2017, being succeeded by the former vice president João Lourenço, but as president of the ruling MPLA retained political influence.
Dos Santos was born into a poor family in Luanda, and was educated locally. He joined the youth wing of the MPLA in 1956, and later became the party representative in Congo-Brazzaville. From 1961 he went into exile in France and the Republic of the Congo. In 1963 he went to the Soviet Union to complete university degrees in petrochemical engineering and in military telecommunications. He returned to Angola in 1970 and resumed the guerrilla war against Portugal 1970–73, which continued as a civil war between the MPLA and UNITA after independence in 1975. He held key positions under President Agostinho Neto, and succeeded him on his death. Despite the uncertainty of the ceasefire between MPLA and UNITA in 1991, Dos Santos confirmed his pledge of substantial political reform.