Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Equatorial Guinea

Malabo, not Malibu
A tiny west Africa country, on the Atlantic coast with Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the south, it struck lucky by striking oil back in the 1990s, and is now sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producer, with the world’s fastest-growing economy. Where does all that wealth go? Where it always goes – into the hands of a rich elite who couldn’t care less that half the population has no access to drinking water and 20% of children die before the age of five.

Among its other listed achievements, both of its post-Independence leaders have been cited on the Top Five list of “world’s worst abusers of human rights”.

One-third of the population simply fled in the 1970s when the name on that list was Francisco Macias Nguema; his crimes included the virtual genocide of the Bubi, the main ethnic minority; and the total collapse of the pre-oil economy.

The second name is President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who came to power in a coup, and has faced no internal opposition since, because he doesn’t allow opposition; there is a theoretical government in exile, but that means as much as me saying I am the King of Shangrila. Exactly how the economy is doing is difficult to ascertain because oil income is a state secret; this is helpful to the President, but even more so to Exxon Mobile and Amerada Hess, whose extensive secret payments to the President are included in the confidential file. The price of petrol at the pump in America is in part explained by EG’s status as “good friend” of the USA (the words belong to Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State), and just in case you think that made it just a Republican position, President Obama posed for a photo recently with President Obiang when the latter was visiting. I guess I will have to go back to using my bicycle.

Vice-President of EG - surprise, surprise! - is Obiang Junior, a man who enjoys a playboy lifestyle - US authorities in 2011 filed to seize a $30 million Malibu, California, oceanfront home, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet, a Ferrari worth more than $500,000 and dozens of pieces of pop singer Michael Jackson memorabilia worth almost $2 million - all of it allegedly purchased with money siphoned off the state coffers. They may have to wait however; the French authorities filed their suits first.

The Obiang home in Malibu CA
Equatorial Guinea kindly and generously offered to take over the hosting of the African Nations Soccer Tournament in 2015, after Morocco got scared of Ebola and pulled out (and then banned from the next one as a punishment). EG was not worried about the Ebola epidemic - after all, people have to die of something, and Ebola is less painful than torture. EG was glad to have this opportunity to show its African neighbours what a welcoming country it is - at least, until its team was beaten, at which point...click here to find out what happened when Ghana beat EG in the semi-final.

This is the second time that EQ has hosted the competition, and it is evident that the purpose is less sport than propaganda. The same was true when Russian hosted the winter Olympics at Sochi, and Hitler when he held the Olympics in 1938. Does this tell us something that we don't really want to know about the general hosting of major sports events? Who knows? Go Qatar!

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Marks Against: 8

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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