Angolan opposition UNITA elects new leader

Adalberto Costa Junior casts his vote on November 15 ahead of being elected the new leader of UNITA (AFP Photo/JOAO DAE FATIMA) (AFP)

Luanda (AFP) - Angola's opposition UNITA on Friday elected lawmaker Adalberto Costa Junior, as its new leader taking over from Isaias Samakuva, who resigned after 16 years at the helm of the ex-rebel movement.

Costa Junior, 57, currently the party's parliamentary leader, won the most votes at a three-day congress of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola which ended Friday in Luanda.

Samakuva, 73, who took the helm of UNITA in 2003, a year after its founder Jonas Savimbi was killed in battle with government troops, stepped down saying after 16 years it was time to give a chance to other "comrades who also have ideas, energy".

The former rebel group has lost every election it has contested since it transformed into an opposition party in 2002.

He hoped that his successor could steer the party to victory at the ballot box.

Angola's next general elections are scheduled to be held in 2022.

Formed during Angola's independence war in 1966, UNITA has long been associated with its charismatic but authoritarian founder Savimbi.

The civil war lasted 27 years and claimed at least half a million lives.

Only when Savimbi was shot dead in 2002 were weapons laid down, paving the way for UNITA's transformation into an opposition party -- but the MPLA's steely grip on power has remained.