Equatorial Guinea: Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s property

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Although definite results were not expected until December 7, the Equatoguinean Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that interim results, given earlier, were almost final. And rightly so. Currently ahead, with more than 95 per cent of the votes cast, Teodoro Obiang Nguema is assured of an uninterrupted absolute control of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. This oil rich and relatively minute strips of land, 28,051 square km, is the bellwether of endemic institutional corruption, ahead of many corrupt countries in the Central African region.

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has again been re-elected with an unequalled majority. In power since 1979, Obiang refuses to share his oil rich strips of land that form Equatorial Guinea and gives it one of the highest income per capita in the world, comparable with those of some developed nations and ahead of some European Union countries. The country has a mainland bordering Cameroon and Gabon, whilst its islands are in the Gulf of Guinea. The country counts some 600 000 plus inhabitants.

No real surprise

Monday, Reporters without borders denounced the country’s presidential campaign, which had given the impression of a one candidate show. With the local media “singing the president’s praises” whilst taking care to pay “little attention to the opposition’s activities. Nguema is expected to get close to 100 per cent of the vote, which is about the same as the share of media coverage he has been getting.” Out of 175 nations, Equatorial Guinea is in the 158th position in terms of press freedom.

The 67 year-old Obiang could be very well disappointed by his dismal electoral victory. In a speech he gave on Sunday, he said he expected no less than 97 per cent of the total votes. Placido Mico’s current 4.5 per cent could therefore be regarded, somehow, as a victory. However, all these numbers could be marred by the fact that the total number of voters is higher than the number of registered voters, as confirmed by AFP.

A product of the military, Teodoro Obiang Nguema came to power by virtue of the power of the gun’s barrel in 1979, overthrowing his uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema. He rules the tiny country with an iron fist, whilst organising so-called democratic elections in what Reporters Without Borders have called “closely-controlled”. He has never scored anything below 95 per cent. He has survived a score of assassination attempts on his life; a number of which are imaginary.

Petrol, big cars and mansions

Accusations of corruption against this government official of this small country are numerous. It is the 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International, and petrol money is at the heart of it all. Petrol was discovered in the country in the early 90s. In 2004 an investigation was opened by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to ascertain the existence of shady deals with the Riggs Bank in Washighton (DC), the seat of the U.S. government.

According to the SEC, a total of 700 million dollars from petroleum companies including ExxonMobil Corp, Amerada Hess Corp, ChevronTexaco, Devon Energy Corp and Marathon Oil Corp was cashed by Obiang and his compatriots. The bank received a whopping 16 million dollar fine for blurring transfer details.

In a detailed report in July, Human Rights Watch questioned the whereabouts of petrol money. “In 2009, GDP per capita was estimated by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) at a staggering $39,916 dollars in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, which is among the highest in the world and on par with Spain and Italy” Arvind Ganesan, editor of the incriminating report, states.

“Given Equatorial Guinea’s enormous oil wealth and its relatively small population of approximately 527,000 people, the country should be a model of development. In 1991 Equatorial Guinea had some of the worst socioeconomic indicators in the world, but given the dramatic growth in GDP it would be reasonable to expect a commensurate improvement in social indicators. Sadly, that is not the case. According to the United Nations Development Programme, as of 2009 Equatorial Guinea had the third-largest gap between its per capita GDP and its Human Development Index (HDI) score, ahead of only Botswana and South Africa.”

Arvind Ganesan proves that institutional corruption is the bane of the country, preventing Equatoguineans from economic development. The tiny country occupies the comfortable 29th position, internationally, in relation to income per capita.

Among the financial follies, that were undertaken with the help of accounts operated by the Riggs Bank, are two mansions in the suburbs of Washington, bought for 3.8 million dollars. In only a space of two years (between 2004 and 2006), Obinag’s first son had spent 43.5 million dollars on luxury homes and sports cars, to the detriment of highly impoverished populations of an otherwise rich country.

This year in France, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the Late President Omar Bongo of Gabon, and Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, were implicated in a legal case that sought to incriminate them for their ill gotten wealth; a case that fell through due to the French justice system’s failure to dig deeper.

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