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July 28 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Blogging Political Cartoons

The blog of Equatoguinean cartoonist Ramón Esono, Las Locuras de Jamón y Queso [es], denounces the country's political situation with cartoons. Each cartoon of the LOCOStv (MADtv) presents well known characters of the Equatoguinean political and social life and some interviews full of satire and parody. President Teodoro Obiang is the most recurrent character in the blog's set.

 

May 24 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Blogger Juan Tomás Ávila is Back

Juan Tomás Ávila has written his first post on his blog Malabo [es] after an absence of two months. In the context of the meeting in Annobon Island to discuss constitutional reforms, held by a committee named by the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, Juan Tomás Ávila discusses the inhumanity of this regime, the need for a strong opposition, and the importance of rescuing the wisdom of the elders if the aim of this political moment is to demand democracy.

May 17 2011

Equatorial Guinea: A New Blog is Born

A new blog was born in Equatorial Guinea: The Colectivo de Jóvenes de Guinea Ecuatorial [es]. The Colectivo is  a youth organization born clandestinely that uses a digital platform to protest against Teodorin Obiang’s dictatorship. Their firts posts debate and analyze issues of sovereignty and the right to unionize.

May 07 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Online expression

On World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders shared a list of press freedom predators. The President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, is on the list. In this country,  were there is a tight control of the press, Facebook is often used to share information and opinions on world events. For example, so far, the famous cartoonist, Nsé Ramón, is the only Equatoguinean to react online to Osama Bin Laden's death in an ironical text [es].

April 23 2011

Equatorial Guinea: SOS Malabo

The team behind S.O.S Malabo has a mission: to promote “visibility, awareness, mobilization, collaboration for the people of Equatorial Guinea using social media.”

April 15 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Few, but Strong Virtual Voices

When the called “Arab revolts” exploded, some wondered if the same was possible in Sub-Saharan Africa. These winds of freedom spread along the demonstrations and through one fundamental tool: the Internet. Blogs and twitter accounts were used not only to pass information or call upon people to struggle for rights, but also as platforms to share thoughts and demands of freedom.

Egypt has about 200,000 blogs and 5 million Facebook users. This is very different from Equatorial Guinea, where only 2% of the population has access to the Internet, and there are about 11,000 Facebook users and 2 blogs. Two known blogs. Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel (Malabo [es]) and Eyi Nguema (Opinión desde Guinea Ecuatorial [es]) are the only bloggers writing in Equatorial Guinea. But their blogs are hosted in Spain, the first one on the digital magazine Frontera D [es] and the second in the newspaper El País [es].

Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel. Photo courtesy of Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel.

The comparison with the Egyptian situation on this subject isn’t haphazard. On February 11th, while hundreds of people were at the Tahrir Square and Hosni Mubarak announced his withdrawal, the president of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, José Bono, was visiting Equatorial Guinea, making famous the sentence “it is much more that unites us than what separates us.” And he wasn’t talking about the Equatoguinean people, but the dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema, in power since 1979. On the same February 11th, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel started a hunger strike, to protest against the “dictatorship that eats our souls” and against the Spanish support of Obiang.

In his last post [es] before the hunger strike, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel wrote about the dictator Obiang and his presidency of the African Union. He criticized building roads and houses for institutional events, while the Equatoguineans have to confront the lack of basic social infrastructure and the destruction of their homes when they are in “strategic” places:

En Malabo, y en las inmediaciones del poblado de Baney, pero cerca de la costa, han arrasado un terreno muy grande para construir los hoteles, los establecimientos de lujo y las residencias particulares de los presidentes africanos para cuando se reunirán para celebrar la cumbre anual este año.

In Malabo, in the vicinity of Baney village, near the shore, they have destroyed a lot of land to build the hotels, the luxury establishments and the private residencies of the African presidents during the annual summit this year.

In his blog Opinión desde Guinea Ecuatorial [es], Eyi Nguema also highlights the lack of governmental social and economical policies for the population: how to live without electricity, how to manage the need of water, how to make Equatorial Guinea a country with a place within the global networks. And how to make a country for the nationals and not for foreign interests or the political elite related to the clan Nguema.

aquí los guineoecuatorianos no controlamos nada de eso; por lo que huelga meter el dedo en la llaga y exhortarnos a trabajar con la idea de que hemos de luchar por nuestra independencia

here the Equatoguineans don’t manage anything; that’s why we need to put the finger in the wound and exhort to work the idea that we need to fight for our independence

Along with their constant struggle for political autonomy, the quest for the right to build their own houses is an everyday issue in Equatorial Guinea. In his most recent post [es], Eyi Nguema writes about the houses in his country:

En efecto, lo que sucede es que, para no vivir en la intemperie, se compra cuatro tablas y cuatro pies derechos de madera (o bloques de mortero de cemento y arena), más chapas de hojalata y se levanta un cobertizo; a un lado se excava el pozo para el agua que se va beber y a otro, el que albergará las aguas residuales (fecales incluidas) y listo. Aquí cuando se habla de viviendas, en un 80% o más, se habla de construcciones de este tipo.

As a matter of fact, if you don’t want to live in the open, you buy four planks and four feet of wood (or blocks of cement and sand), tinplates and you build a shed; on one side, you dig the potable water well, on the other, the residual waters (including the fecal ones) well. And that’s it! Here, when we talk about houses, 80% or more of the time we are talking about these kinds of constructions.

These bloggers don’t hide the fact that Equatorial Guinea is a rich country. There is plenty of oil, wood and water. But most of the population lives in misery, with high rates of infant mortality and a paralysis in agriculture. Human rights violations, such as political persecution and summary executions, are rampant, as confirmed in the most recent Human Rights Report of the country.

Blogger Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel’s also writes about these issues. But in his case, cyberactivism is a true commitment with the polis. This blogger and famous writer often says he has a free mind and no intentions of entering formal politics. But when he saw himself forced to leave Equatorial Guinea after he began the hunger strike, he was already a political symbol. He describes Equatorial Guinea as a “republican kingdom” or a “non republic,” and with this in mind he wrote about nepotism and the confiscation of the state by Obiang while he was in his country. Now he lives in Barcelona and writes about the perils of the apathy of the national and the international communities, and the absence of action because of fear. He argues that one of the arguments is [es]:

Aquí estamos bien. Es África. Hay países peores que este. ¿No has oído la radio?

Here we are ok. This is Africa. There are countries worse than this. Didn’t you listen to the radio?

The national radio  suffers severe political censorship. People who listen to the Radio-Télévision Nationale de Guinée Équatoriale don’t know what has happened in Tunisia, in Egypt or Libya. In a country without newspapers, they can only depend on mouth to mouth spreading of news. Or those who have access to the Internet can read the Asodegue [es] page, the only website with other information about Equatorial Guinea.

Under these extreme circumstances, the blogs of Eyi Nguema and Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel offer two of the very few possibilities to build a virtual space for free expression. This is Africa, says Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel.

March 11 2011

Libya: Sub-Saharan Africans in Serious Danger

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Mairi Mcgivern · View original post [fr]

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

The crisis in Libya since the uprisings against Colonel Mouammar Gaddafi has not only had dramatic consequences for Libyans, but also for Sub-Saharan African citizens residing in Libya. Thousands of refugees are exposed to terrible conditions on journeys to the nearest borders, and numerous black Africans currently do not dare to leave their homes, not even to find something to eat. Why is this?

The digital portal for the civil society of Maghreb e-Joussour.net explains in an article [fr] published on March 2:

De peur d'être pris pour des mercenaires à la solde du pouvoir de Mouammar Kadhafi, les migrants subsahariens vivant en Libye se cachent depuis le début de la répression sanglante, au risque de se retrouver oubliés dans ce pays qu'ils veulent quitter.

For fear of being mistaken for mercenaries working to uphold the powerful regime of Mouammar Gaddafi, Sub-Saharan migrants living in Libya have been forced to hide themselves ever since the onslaught of the bloody repression began. Yet they run the risk of finding themselves forgotten in a county they wish to leave.

Hundreds of thousands have migrated to Libya from all over the African continent, notably from the countries within close proximity, such as approximately 300,000 from Chad, 50,000 from Nigeria and 10,000 from Mauritania. In an article on Mediapart [fr] (subscription required), Carine Fouteau remarks:

“Regrouped according to nationality in certain areas of the larger cities, they call for help without being heard. ‘The Sub-Saharan Africans are afraid. After the information we received from the Malians, they gather together as much as possible, up to 10, 20 or 30 at a time. They cannot get out, they live underground.  Anyone with black skin is in hiding due to certain individuals who have supported the violence’ reports Alassane Dicko, one of the co-ordinators/leaders of the Malian Association of Deportation (AME), situated in Bamako.”

Global Voices previously shared citizen videos related to the African mercenary question.

Al Jazeera English shares a video report on the dangers faced by black Africans in Libya.

In a report of Malian testimonies on the website Bamanet.net, Abdou Karim Maiga recounts the experience of certain individuals [fr] who are refusing to flee.

“Mamadou Diakite, who is around thirty and works as a civil servant, recounts that “since the beginning of the conflict, we have been persecuted and especially since the press began to speak of the implication that many blacks are mercenaries working closely with Gaddafi. We state here that our president should support Gaddafi and as a result we are considered as traitors.”

Another Malian, Chaka Sidibe, arrived in Libya just four months ago. He affirms that for several nights he and his friends have not slept and adds that [fr]:

“We have been abandoned by our Chinese bosses who have been evacuated by their country and their villagers have asked us to leave as quickly as possible. We grouped ourselves together and crossed the Egyptian boarder by foot.”

The website Relief Web reports real life stories of people who have attempted to save their own lives:

“Fearing for their lives, given the targeting of Sub-Saharan Africans, and desperate to leave Libya, they had paid a human trafficker to take them to Egypt in a sealed and refrigerated truck”

The information agency of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Irin News, reports the experience of some Somalis [fr].

Their food reserves are almost totally exhausted, he explained, “The landlord did the shopping for us but we are missing a lot. We had a little bit of money when the troubles first erupted, but we are labourers and it has now been 12 days since we last worked.

Additionally, it is the women who have paid the heaviest price during this conflict, Shamso Mohammed, a Somali refugee, told IRIN in the same article:

The Somali women are particularly worried about what might happen. “I arrived here almost a year and a half ago in order to try to get myself to Europe, but so far I have not succeeded and now I find myself in the exact same situation I was trying to escape from by fleeing Somalia.”

Maryan Ali, who lives under the same roof as Shamso, has said that she fears they may come and attack them in their homes. “The residencies of several Somalians would have been, in effect, the target of attackers”, she added.

Three of her friends disappeared five days ago, she revealed. “We called them for work and they went; the last news we have of them is that they were taken by a car driven and accompanied by armoured men. We have no idea what the men have done to them and we have no one to turn to for help.”

Boukary Daou wrote in an article published on Maliweb.net:

“On this Wednesday, (2nd March), there are around 134 migrants, who have trampled the soil of home. But this is just a small fraction of our compatriots living in Libya.

According to the last administrative census carried out by the vocational electorate of the civil State, (Ravec) there are more than 9000 Malians still to be accounted for.”

The site Podcast Journal signaled other sources of worry for the HCR and the OIM:

‘Melissa Fleming, spokesperson of the HCR, made known to the HCR some concerns over the destiny of a ‘large number of refugees of Sub-Saharan African origin who are not yet authorised to enter into Tunisian territory.’ This is an issue equally signalled as a concern by the spokesperson of the International Migration Organisation (OMI), Jemini Pandya, who also works to help with the evacuation process of non-Libyan nationals.’

In another article by Carine Fouteau on Mediapart (reproduced on Centrafrique Presse), Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, spokesman of International Organisation of Migration (IOM), explains:

“Those who do not have any official papers are literally restricted over there. What’s more is that there are copious levels of people in this situation; from Mali, Guinea, Nigeria, Niger, Toga, Benin, Burkina Faso etc. Without a passport it is improbable that they would be authorised to leave the country. Their situation is a particularly pressing issue.”

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

March 05 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Writer ends hunger strike

Written by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

Writer and poet Juan Tomás Avila Laurel decided to end a hunger strike [es] in protest against the rule of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who siezed power of Equatorial Guinea in 1979 in a military coup. “It makes no sense to continue with a protest that has lost its essence,” he said.

March 03 2011

Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa censors Mideast protests

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Some African leaders do not want citizens to know what is happening in North Africa and Middle East: “As news of Middle Eastern and North African protests swirl around the globe, satellite television and the Internet prove vital sources of information for Africans as governments fearful of an informed citizenry and a free press such as in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe impose total news blackouts on the developments.”

February 18 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Writer on Hunger Strike

Written by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

The writer and poet from Equatorial Guinea, Juan Tomás Avila Laurel [es], has gone on a hunger strike [es] in protest against the dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Obiang and his family have ruled the ex Spanish colony since 1979.

February 17 2011

Equatorial Guinea: Mr. Obiang, new Chairperson of the African Union and Human Rights profaner.

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Rhita Boufelliga · View original post [fr]

Head of states and of government of the African Union (AU)- established in 2002, in Durban South Africa, in replacement of the Organization of African Unity-, elected on January 30th 2011 Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as the AU's new Chairperson, succeeding Mr. Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi's president. Mr Obiang has been Equatorial Guinea's president since 1979, following a coup d'état. He rules his country with an iron fist. Despite a sobering human rights review [Fr]; he has up to now managed to avoid an international sentencing.

As soon as he was elected, Mr. Obiang Nguema made some statements confirming the self image he gives to his country's leadership. Many blogs and online media have captured them, of which Le Patriot Nefertiti [Fr] that cites him on lepost.fr :

“Les concepts de démocratie, des droits de l'homme, de bonne gouvernance, ne sont pas des nouveaux thèmes pour l'Afrique, mais il convient plutôt de les adapter à la culture africaine (…)”

“The concepts of democracy, human rights and good governance aren't new themes for Africa, but it is more suitable to adapt them to the African culture (…)”

He didn't elaborate how ideologies such as the ones defined in the “Universal declaration of human rights” are in need of adaptation to fit Africans.

Human right organizations reacted promptly:

On the blog pambazuka.org, Yves Niyiragira cites [Fr] a press release from the African Assembly for the defense of Human Rights (RADDHO), published on January 31st 2010 in Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia, expressing “its deepest indignation”:

«La situation des droits humains en Guinée équatoriale est caractérisée par les tortures systématiques contre les opposants politiques, les violations des libertés fondamentales avec une opposition muselée, l’absence d’une presse indépendante, l’inexistence de la Société civile».

“The human rights situation in Equatorial Guinea is characterized by systematic torture of political opponents, by the violation of the fundamental freedoms with a muzzled opposition, the absence of an independent media body, and the non-existence of civil society.”

The violations include death sentences. According to Amnesty International, four people; Jose Abeso Nsue, Manuel Ndong Anseme, Alipio Ndong Asumu and Jacinto Micha Obiang were kidnapped in Benin where they had fled to and “they were executed on August 21st, immediately after being declared guilty by a military tribunal in the capital Malabo.”

Obiang and Rice via a-birdie on Flickr CC license 2.0

The blog appablog.wordpress.com published [Fr]:

« …. elle [l'UA] se dote d’un nouveau président en la personne de M. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, président de la Guinée Equatoriale, arrivé au pouvoir par un coup d’Etat et régnant sur son pays au mépris des droits humains depuis 30 ans.»

“…. it [AU] acquired a new president in Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, president of Equatorial Guinea, arrived to power through a coup d’état, and is ruling his country, for 30 years, completely disdaining human rights.”

Enfin, alors que l’impunité des responsables des crimes les plus graves bafoue le droit des victimes à la justice et est à la base des crises politiques et des conflits sur le continent, la FIDH déplore la décision de l’UA de réitérer sa demande de suspension des procédures judiciaires engagées par la Cour pénale internationale contre le président soudanais El Béchir, présumé responsable du crime de génocide, de crimes contre l’humanité et de crimes de guerre au Darfour

Finally, as the impunity of the people responsible for serious crimes violates the victim's rights to justice and is at the basis of political crisis and conflicts on the continent; the FIDH [International Federation for Human Rights] deplores the AU's decision to reiterate its request for the suspension of the judicial procedures started by the International Criminal Court against the Sudanese president El Bechir, alleged responsible of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfour.

« Par ses décisions, l’UA nous montre qu’elle nage en plein paradoxe. »

“Through its decisions, the AU is showing us how it is immersed in paradox.”

During it's nth reelection in 2009, with more than 95% of the votes, an article by Denis Carlier “Obiang Nguema, a president for 30 years: Authoritarianism and corruption in power on black gold ground in Equatorial Guinea” on the blogafrik.com has triggered many reactions:

The blogger Juju wrote in his first comment:

30 ans et encore sept ? c'est la malédiction de tout un peuple qui se voit dans la misère à cause de ces dictateurs, d'abord Macias Nguema et maintenant son neveau Obiang Nguema. Les gens vivaient bien avec les espagnols. Il n'y avait pas de petrol, les familles avaient leurs terres et les parents avaient des moyens pour payer les etudes à leurs enfants. Il n'y avait pas d'analphabètes. A quoi a servi l'indépendence ? pourquoi nous les africains n'avons pas le droit d'une vie digne dans nos pays ?

30 years and another 7 to go? It's the curse of a whole population that see itself in misery because of its dictators, first Macias Nguema and now his nephew Obiang Nguema. The people lived well with the Spanish. There was no petrol, families had their land, and parents had enough money to pay for their children's studies. There were no illiterates. What was the purpose of the Independence? Why don't we, the Africans, have the right to a life with dignity in our countries?

In a second comment, juju added:

… Avec un PIB de 29800 dollars [per capita], pas d'eau potable pas d'électricité pas de logements dignes pas d'hôpitaux ( lui et sa famille vont au Maroc pour se soigner).

With a GDP of $29800 [per capita], no drinking water, no electricity, no decent housing, no hospitals (him and his family go to Morocco to get medical care)

.
From his part, Malembe wrote:

« On peut également dire que ces despotes travaillent à la solde des occidentaux. Après tout c´est du théâtre, chacun a un rôle ou des rôles bien précis dans les pièces. Le Président equato-guinéen sait qu´il est une marionnette. Il n´est pas leader. »

We can also say that these despots work in the pay of the west. After all it's theater, everyone has a role or multiple well defined roles in the plays. The Equato-Guinean president knows that he is a puppet. He is not a leader.

It's hard to deny Malembe's comments since -based on this article by Denis Carlier [Fr], an investigation directed by the Securities and Exchange commission on the existence of dubious transactions on Riggs Bank accounts, in Washington (DC) has discovered:

« un total de 700 millions de dollars y a été transféré au profit d’Obiang et de ses proches, en provenance des compagnies pétrolières ExxonMobil Corp, Amerada Hess Corp, ChevronTexaco, Devon Energy Corp et Marathon Oil Corp. La banque a été condamnée à une amende record de 16 millions de dollars pour avoir tu le détail des virements, et s’est finalement faite racheter. »

A total of 700 million dollars has been transfered to Obiang and his family, from the following petroleum companies: Exxon Mobil Corp, Amerada hess Corp, ChevronTexaco, Devon Energy Corp and Marathon Oil Corp. The bank was fined a record $16 million for not disclosing the details of the transactions, and was later bought.

According to Leger Ntiga on the website africapresse.com [FR]:

Le président équato-guinéen Teodoro Obiang Nguema se trouve à la 12e place du classement des chefs d’Etat les plus riches du monde derrière huit dirigeants d’Asie parmi lesquels le sultan de Bruneï, le roi d’Arabie Saoudite, l’émir du Qatar et le sultan d’Oman, ainsi que le prince Albert II de Monaco et le Premier ministre Italien, Silvio Berlusconi. Il est ainsi accusé de confisquer les biens publics de son pays.

The Equato-Guinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema is the 12th richest head of state in the world, following 8 Asian rulers including the sultan of Brunei, the king of Saudi Arabia, the emir of Qatar and the sultan of Oman, as well as prince Albert II of Monaco and the Italian prime minister Sylvio Berlusconi. He is thus accused of stealing his country's wealth.

A few days before Obiang's election as AU's Chairperson, Abena Ampofoa Asara commented, in an article entitled “Obiang: the pseudo humanitarian”, published by pambazuka.org, on Obiang's $3 million dollars endowment that the UNESCO almost accepted:

Avec le revenu national le plus élevé de l’Afrique subsaharienne, le revenu per capita de la Guinée équatoriale est comparable à celui du Portugal ou de la Corée du Sud. Néanmoins, 60% de la population se débat pour survivre avec moins d’un dollar par jour. Depuis la découverte du pétrole dans ce pays, en 1995, la famille de Teodoro Obiang Nguema et ses proches associés sont devenus fabuleusement riches, alors que la majorité de la population est restée embourbée dans la pauvreté.

With the highest national income of the Sub-Saharan Africa, the per capita income of Equatorial Guinea is comparable to that of Portugual or South Korea. Nevertheless, 60% of the population is struggling to survive with less than a dollar per day. Since the discovery of petroleum in this country in 1995; Teodoro Obiang Nguema's family and his close associates became extremely rich, where as the rest of the population remains mired in poverty.

December 20 2010

Africa: The Scandal of the “Ill-gotten Gains”

By Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lynn Palermo · View original post [fr]

On November 9, 2010, the French Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a decision rendered a year ago by the Paris Court of Appeals, agreeing to hear the case brought by the French section of the NGO Transparency International [fr]  called “the ill-gotten gains” of the heads of state of Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinee  and members of their entourage.

It all begin in March 2007, when the Catholic Committee against Hunger and for Economic Development (CCFD) - Terre Solidaire  published a report on the  embezzlement of public funds by politicians of the South [fr].  It's title?  “Ill-gotten gains…too often bring profit: Dictators' fortune and Western complacency.”

Focusing on domestic goods of the countries victimized by their leaders, the study by the CCFD - Terre solidaire [fr] revealed abuses at the national level:

« Par exemple, Mobutu a transformé Gbadolite, son village natal au Zaïre, en un « Versailles de la jungle », avec une cinquantaine d’hôtels, un aéroport international qui pouvait accueillir le Concorde et plus de trois palais. Quant à Denis Sassou Nguesso, président en exercice au Congo Brazzaville, il détiendrait, avec sa famille, la moitié de l’économie du pays»

For example, Mobutu  transformed Gbadolite, his native village in Zaire into a “Versailles of the jungle,” with about 50 hotels, an international airport capable of receiving the Concorde, and more than three palaces.  Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of Congo Brazzaville, and his family controlled half of the country's economy.

A police investigation confirmed most of the allegations and uncovered the existence of many other goods [fr] in the form of both real estate and personal property (including cars and the dictators' bank accounts).

Sassou Nguesso's house. Source: témoignages.re

The report alleged that the clan of Omar Bongo Odimba (OBO) of Gabon had appropriated 39 real estate properties, of which 17 of there were in the name of their leader.  Most of the properties were located in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.  It also identified 70 bank accounts, 11 of them in OBO's name; and an automobile fleet of at least 9 vehicles whose total value is estimated at 1,493,443 euros.

survie.org reveals [fr] that, in addition to OBO's ill-gotten gains in France,

« En 1999, le Sénat américain a publié un rapport d’enquête sur l’origine de la fortune du président (gabonais). Ce document établit qu’Omar Bongo est devenu client de la Citibank de New York en 1970 et qu’il a ouvert de multiples comptes auprès de ses différents bureaux, à Bahreïn, à Jersey, à Londres, au Luxembourg, à New York, à Paris et en Suisse. …. Au total, le montant des avoirs du chef d’Etat, qui ont été placés sur ses différents comptes bancaires à la Citibank, à New York, de 1985 à 1997, serait d’environ 130 millions de dollars. La City Bank aurait expliqué « que l’argent provenait d’une allocation budgétaire, 8,5 % du budget gabonais - soit 111 millions de dollars - étant chaque année réservés au président ».

In 1999, the U.S. Senate a published the report of an investigation into the origins of the fortune of the President (of Gabon).  This document established that Omar Bongo had become a client of Citibank of New York in 1970 and that he had opened multiple accounts at different offices in Bahrain, Jersey, London, Luxembourg, New York, Paris, Switzerland.  … All told, from 1985 to 1997 the Head of State had allegedly deposited around 130 million dollars in various accounts with Citibank New York.  Citibank allegedly explained “that the money came from a budgetary allocation: 8.5% of the Gabonese budget, or 111 million dollars, was reserved for the president annually.”

The report goes further.  survie.org adds [fr] that:

« C’est dans son hôtel particulier qu’il a ainsi accueilli pendant la campagne présidentielle française les candidats Nicolas Sarkozy et François Bayrou ainsi que la moitié du gouvernement Fillon lors de sa première visite officielle sous la présidence de N. Sarkozy. »

During the French presidential campaign, he also received candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and François Bayrou at his home, as well as half of Fillon's government during the first official visit under the Sarkozy presidency.

Another site, asso-sherpa.org revealed [fr] more proof of the abuses of the OBO clan:

“Edith Bongo, alors épouse du Président gabonais, aurait ainsi fait l’acquisition d’une Daimler Chrysler au moyen d’un chèque tiré sur un compte ouvert auprès de la Banque de France par le Trésor Public Gabonais.

Edith Bongo, who was the wife of the Gabonese President at the time, allegedly acquired a Daimler Chrysler with a check drawing on an account opened at the Banque de France by the Gabonese Public Treasury.

Copy of the check for Chrysler purchase. Source: Asso-sherpa.org

Police services have also exposed the role played by various intermediaires (bankers, lawyers) in carrying out these various operations.

According to the report [fr] by CCFD-Terre solidaire, the fortune of Congolese President Denis Sassou NGesso and his entourage allegedly consists  of 18 properties; 112 bank accounts; and a fleet of automobiles, including  at least une vehicle worth 172,321 euros.

Nor is that everything.  The Congolese President and his clan's embezzlements

«  auraient commencé dès sa première période au pouvoir, de 1979 à 1992, en négociant la vente du pétrole en dessous du prix du marché en contrepartie de versements à son profit. A ce jour, la fortune de Denis Sassou Nguesso est estimée à plus d’un milliard de dollars. »

allegedly began during his first presidential term between 1979 and 1992, by negotiating the sale of oil below the market price in exchange for bank account deposits that benefited him personally.  At that time, Denis Sassou Nguesso's fortune was estimated at more than a billion dollars.

As for President Teodoro Obiang, who had closer relations with the United States than with France, the article titled “Biens mail acquis à qui profite le crime?” [”Gains ill-gotten: who profits from this crime?”] by Antoine Dulin and Jean Merckaert and found at ccfd-terresolidaire.org explains the extent of their illegal self-enrichment:

80% du revenu national serait monopolisé par l’oligarchie alors que 65% de la population vit toujours dans l’extrême pauvreté. ….. En 2003, ces comptes représentaient la relation la plus importante de la Rigg’s Bank, avec des versements totaux allant de 400 millions à 700 millions de dollars en une fois ! »

80% of national revenue is allegedly monopolized by the oligarchy, while 65% of the population still lives in extreme poverty.  In 2003, these accounts represented the most important relationship held by Rigg's Bank, with total deposits increasing from 400 million dollars to 700 million dollars at a time!

Furthermore, after the November 2009 elections in Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang formed a new government of 69 members, ousting practically all of the preceding ministers.  According to the site [fr] Africatime.com:

« En effet, dans le Gouvernement, il y a trois fils du Général, un frère, trois neveux, deux beaux-frères et trois cousins. »

Indeed, in the government, there are the General's three sons, one brother, three nephews, two brothers-in-law, and three cousins.

In Cameroon, the authors of the CCFD-Terre solidaire investigation write that:

À peine devenu chef d’État (en novembre 1982), Paul Biya faisait parler de lui à propos de son patrimoine. Le 16 mars 1983, Le Canard enchaîné dévoilait deux acquisitions présidentielles en France : l’une avenue Foch à Paris, l’autre sur la Côte d’Azur, à Cagnes-sur-Mer. …. En mai 1997, L’Événement du jeudi estime que la fortune du président camerounais et de sa famille approche les 70 millions d’euros, dont des châteaux en France et en Allemagne, à Baden- Baden.

Shortly after Paul Biya became Head of State (in November 1982), people were already talking about his inheritance.  On March 16, 1983, Le Canard enchainé uncovered two presidential acquisitions in France: one on the Avenue Foch in paris; the other in Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean.  In may 1977, L'Evenement du jeudi estimated the fortune of the Cameroonian President and his family at close to 70 million euros, including chateaus in France and in Baden-Baden in Germany.

Despite all the evidence assembled by these investigations, it took until November 9, 2010 for the Supreme Court of Appeals to reach its decision.

In these times of troubling governance in Africa, the Ill-Gotten Gains affair can only reinforce the perception that government leaders are enriching themselves while their people live in misery.

July 14 2010

Equatorial Guinea: Portuguese as its Third Official Language

By Sara Moreira

An online petition [pt] against the entry of Equatorial Guinea to the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) has been launched by Portuguese and Mozambican organizations. Brazil and São Tomé & Príncipe [pt] support President Obiang intentions. In case the country is accepted, Portuguese will become its third official language together with Spanish and French.

June 23 2010

Cape Verde / Equatorial Guinea: Journalists Kept Away from Official Visit

By Sara Moreira

Amilcar Tavares posted several diagrams [pt] in his blog comparing the development of Cape Verde with Equatorial Guinea. The controversial President of the latter, Teodoro Mbasogo, visited Cape Verde last week and was kept away from journalists by the President Pedro Pires.

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