Circus made in Equatorial Guinea: Coup or Criminal act?

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Equatorial Guinean officials have thwarted earlier reports of a coup d’état in the oil rich West African state as they accuse the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta rebel army (MEND) for an attack on the residence of Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, President of Equatorial Guinea, in the capital city of Malabo.

The gun-men reportedly spent hours firing at the presidential Palace, but the president is reported to have been on the mainland, Bata, and not on the island of Malabo at the time of the attack. Some Hours after the shoot-out, armed security forces were deployed in Malabo and roadblocks were erected to search vehicles and check passengers’ identities. The reason behind the attack is still uncertain to the media.

Some of the hypothesis held by observers have indicated that President Nguema who has ruled the country for 20 years now after ousting his uncle in a coup d’état in 1979 could have been the target of a similar attempt to topple him. However, British mercenary Simon Mann, the most likely person to lead a coup against president Nguema is is currently ill and hospitalised as he serves a 34 year sentence for plotting a coup d’état to overthrow the government of president Nguema in 2004.

Notwithstanding the ferocity of the attack, Equatorial Guinea authorities have deemed Tuesday’s attack as a mere criminal act. Augustin Nze Nfumu, Equatorial Guinean ambassador to the United Kingdom was quoted as saying, “I will categorically say there hasn’t been any coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea at all.” He accused the Emancipation of the Niger Delta rebel army of the attacks on the presidential villa pointing out that the Niger Delta rebel group had been behind two bank robberies in Equatorial Guinea’s mainland city of Bata in December 2007 and they had also been linked to more ambitious attacks in recent months on vessels off the coast of Cameroon.

Equatorial Guinea is the third biggest oil producer in Africa and has suffered decades of instability. Recently its instabilities has been linked to the Niger Delta militias who have been quick to deny any link to the social disturbances in the oil rich West African island.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta rebel army, which has always maintained its stance for a fairer distribution of wealth from Nigeria’s oil while confining its operations to southern Nigeria and its offshore oil installations, has called the accusations “paranoid” in a email to the BBC. According to Antony Goldman, West Africa expert — Formerly of the BBC and Financial Times — “not everything is as clear as the government of Equatorial Guinea would like”, indicated the British broadcast network.

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