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Angola prepares for vote friday

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(AFP/Francisco Leong)
Supporters of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos hold his picture during his final election campaign rally in Cacuaco on the outskirts of Luanda.

The paradox of Angola is evident in its crowded capital, where the luxury cars of petro-millionaires lurch along dilapidated roads past piles of garbage and pools of stagnant water. The opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, which faces the longtime ruling party in elections Friday, has urged impoverished Angolans to vote for change.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' Popular Liberation Movement of Angola – accused by international human rights groups of corruption and mismanagement – says it is making progress transforming a nation destroyed by civil war. The campaign period has been accompanied by street repairs in some parts of the capital. Angola is rich in diamonds, and the newest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries produces 1.6 millionbarrels a day. With oil prices soaring, that has meant boom time for some. Yet the country has among of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.

On the campaign trail, dos Santos has promised to create jobs, build homes and boost agriculture to fight hunger.The last time Angolans went to the polls, in presidential and legislative balloting held during a break in decades of civil war in 1992, disputes over the outcome led to fighting. This time, the lead-up to the voting has been relatively peaceful, but some Angolans remain fearful.