Tag Archives: Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea president’s son under formal investigation in France

The president of Equatorial Guinea’s son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, has been placed under formal investigation by the French government for money laundering.

The Equatoguinean government released a statement on their blogspot.com blog, possibly the only post on that blog that has ever been written by an Equatoguinean and not an American PR firm.

The government’s position has nothing to do with the money laundering claim. Rather they argue Obiang has diplomatic immunity and that there is a protection of property agreement between France and Equatorial Guinea.

More in a Human Rights Watch press statement here. A press release from SHERPA, the French NGO that originally filed the legal complaint is here. If you read French, I think this article has more details on holes in Obiang’s defense; Google translate has trouble with legal phrases.

His French lawyer is Emmanuel Marsigny, who has been representing him since at least 2012.  Marsigny founded a firm that specializes in part in “foreign corruption and money laundering.”

The Equatorial Guinea government press release ends, without irony: “We have always trusted the justice system and the presumption of innocence.”

How American PR firms work for African dictatorships

Equatorial Guinea makes extensive use of American PR firms. (Follow links here for examples.) Up until recently (and maybe still?), they worked with Qorvis. Qorvis’ reported activities on behalf of Equatorial Guinea to the Department of Justice from a few years ago are here (starting on pdf page 31; h/t ThinkProgress). Qorvis appears to have had hundreds of meetings and other interactions with US-based reporters to discuss Equatorial Guinea in 2011 alone.

Excerpt from Qorvis' report on activities they conducted on behalf of the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

Excerpt from Qorvis’ report on activities they conducted on behalf of the Government of Equatorial Guinea. Here they note all of the news outlets they sent a press release to.

Qorvis also reports that they “corrected errors and provided factual content for blogs and internet databases.” Someone from Qorvis has responded in some way to virtually every blog post or Tweet I have ever written on Equatorial Guinea. They have also responded to comments I have made on other sites. Someone from Qorvis who follows me on Twitter used to re-tweet tweets I would write that were unrelated to Equatorial Guinea, seemingly trying to ingratiate himself with me so that I would engage with him more on Equatorial Guinea. 

I think Qorivs is required to report literally every expense associated with foreign government consulting. Below they report a GoDaddy.com charge, which I suspect is for this site which I think they started up a few years ago, along with iPhone charges for the specific person who would often reach out to me to discuss my blog posts or tweets. Go America and our Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 for requiring this degree of financial reporting!

Qorvis expenses associated with consulting for Government of Equatorial Guinea

Qorvis expenses associated with consulting for Government of Equatorial Guinea

 

2 years ago Global Voices picked up a blog post I did on Equatorial Guinea. I had noted that there was a fear among African immigrants in EG that the government would crack down on illegal immigration following the Africa Cup of Nations. Here a seemingly innocuous comment from a Qorvis employee.

2 years ago Global Voices picked up a blog post I did on Equatorial Guinea. I had noted that there was a fear among African immigrants in EG that the government would crack down on illegal immigration following the Africa Cup of Nations. Here a seemingly innocuous comment from a Qorvis employee.

Based on this Reuters article, Equatorial Guinea’s new PR firm is Richard Attias and Associates.

The perils of working with Obiang’s son

Roberto Berardi, an Italian business partner of the Equatoguinean president’s son (Teodoro Obiang) has been sentenced to over 2 years in prison on Equatorial Guinea’s mainland. The partner was arrested after broaching with Teodoro the issue of US asset forfeiture against Teodoro’s US-based properties. Teodoro was perhaps afraid Berardi would testify against him in the future. Berardi is allegedly being held in solitary confinement and tortured. via the World Organisation Against Torture:

According to the information received, Mr Roberto Berardi, business partner of Mr Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue, Second Vice President of Equatorial Guinea and President Obiang’s eldest son, was arrested without a warrant late at night on 18 January 2013 at his home in Bata. He was held without charges for 21 days during which he was subjected to violence and denied access to a lawyer and family members. Mr Roberto Berardi was only later informed that his business partner had accused him of misappropriation, swindling and fraud of their company assets, Eloba Constuccuion S.A., which is operating in the construction sector. On 26 August 2013, the Bata Provincial Court sentenced him to 2 years and 4 months imprisonment for misappropriation. His trial was reportedly marred by irregularities.

According to the same information received, Mr Roberto Berardi had found out early 2013 about the asset forfeiture action by the United States Department of Justice against the US-based properties that his business partner had purchased by using accounts in Equatorial Guinea banks in the name of Eloba Construccion. Mr Roberto Berardi had subsequently raised the issue with his partner Mr Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mangue. There are reasons to believe that Mr Roberto Berardi could be a very damaging witness in the US investigation and was therefore arrested and imprisoned.

The battle to succeed Obiang in Equatorial Guinea

Africa Confidential on Equatorial Guinea [gated]:

In May 2012, Obiang appointed a new government and started a constitutional row. By naming his son [Téodorin] vice-president, Obiang would have made Téodorin his official successor. Instead. he named two vice-presidents, Téodorin and the former Prime Minister, Ignacio Milam Tang. Téodorin is Vice-President for National Defence and State Security, but government press releases named Tang constitutional successor.

[...]

Constancia Mangue Nsue Okomo, another of Obiang’s wives, is a driving force behind Téodorin’s takeover bid. She is younger than her husband and has a network of businesses to protect. Outside the family, no one has dared to raised their head above the parapet.

Statement on upcoming elections in Equatorial Guinea

Amnesty International, Equatorial Guinea Justice, and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint statement on the upcoming Equatoguinean elections. The election environment appears so textbook-dictatorship it’s almost not interesting. I’m sure there is heterogeneity amongst these authoritarian electoral strategies, but to someone who doesn’t know much about this it seems pretty cliche to me. One interesting thing to note: there is a fear that foreign journalists might get denied visas. But Americans don’t need visas! So American journalists should be able to enter the country without trouble. It’s not very expensive to get there either. Go!

The May 26 elections will include voting for local council members and a new parliament, including for the first time 55 senators (Obiang appoints an additional 15 senators).

It doesn’t matter what happens on May 26. There is simply no way the elections can be considered free based on the current state of the media (virtually no way to hear or see any message that criticizes the government in the country except via the internet); the ruling party’s ability to use state resources for the campaign; the fear that you and your family won’t get government jobs if you publicly support either of the two parties that are not part of the ruling coalition etc. etc. etc.

Some highlights from the report:

The country has no independent and impartial body to oversee the electoral process or consider election-related complaints. The National Election Commission is controlled by the ruling party and is headed by the interior minister, a prominent member of the governing party.

[...]

[Election] observers will be permitted to travel to witness the vote only “in accordance with the program established for that purpose by the government” (arts. 11, 12, and 18).

Their [election observers'] ability to speak to the “official news media” about their “activities” during voting is subject to approval by the Information Ministry (art. 21).

Opposition party in Equatorial Guinea urges election boycott

The Union Popular, one of the two legitimate opposition parties in Equatorial Guinea, has just issued a press release in advance of legislative and local government elections in May. I post the press release in its entirety below. My Spanish is not perfect, but after going back and forth with a party official a few times I think the main points are that 1)  The UP wants voters to boycott the elections, and 2) President Obiang is claiming that the UP signed an electoral pact with his ruling PDGE. This is not true. No pact has been signed.

Full text below. Please let me know if there are other main points I missed.

República de Guinea Ecuatorial
Partido Político Unión Popular
(U.P.)
Presidencia

DECLARACION INSTITUCIONAL

La Radio y Televisión del Estado bajo el absoluto control de PDGE, y patentizado en la página web de su gobierno, está difundiendo en los últimos días la firma de un Pacto Electoral entre el PDGE y los partidos paniaguados incluyendo en su lista al partido político Unión Popular.

Mediante la presente, el Partido político Unión Popular recuerda al pueblo de Guinea Ecuatorial y a la comunidad internacional lo siguiente:

Que, a raíz de la NO participación de Unión Popular a la Reforma Constitucional en Annobon el mes de mayo del año 2011, el mandamás de los partidos políticos Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene expresa su cólera y venganza y saca de su delincuencia escuela democrática a Alfredo Mitogo Mitogo para estar al frente de UP con la aprobación y oferta protectora anticonstitucional del presidente Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo a todos aquellos que saben nutrirse de sus ‘sabias orientaciones’;
Alfredo Mitogo Mitogo, un delincuente político que cuando militó en A.D.P, su objetivo fue desestabilizar a su líder Mba Olo Bahamonde para apoderarse de la institución. Al final fue expulsado de A.D.P. ( esta vez la ley pudo aplicarse) , su proyecto continuó en UNION POPULAR ( U.P ) cuando Jeremías Ondo Ngomo llevaba la institución, tomando como estrategia recomendar a Ondo Ngomo expulsar de U.P a todos sus amigos y compañeros de lucha luego destituirle.

Hoy refuerza su acostumbrado método, apoyado por un miembro de gobierno que dice ser de la “oposición democrática” en ofertar por primera vez, a cambio de cargos y otros intereses económicos, las siglas de nuestro sufrido partido al Presidente fundador. ( esta vez, no se puede aplicar ninguna ley), por mucha que la ley reconozca la integridad y la legalidad de la directiva de U.P, el vice primer ministro encargado de la política interior agarra a Mitogo para desestabilizar a U.P y acabar con la ilusión y el sueño que un día tuvieron sus padres fundadores, hablamos de Juan Ntue Masakum, Andrés Ikuka Ebombe Bombe, Julián Yekue, José Martinez Bikie, Justino Mba Nsue, Andrés Moisés Mba Ada, Hermenegildo Ilolo Paca, Julián Mañe Edu, Baltasar Abaga Obiang, Jacinto Edu Alogo, Guillermo Richar Cuaresma, Tome Salas, Benito Mangue, Esteban Avehe…todos muertos junto a su mártir PEDRO MOTHU MAMIAGA, y pocos vivos como Domindo Abuy Elo Nchama, Angel Masie Ntutumu, Angel Masie Mibuy, Teofilo Ondo Nkulu.

Alfredo Mitogo y Genoveva traicionan memoria de estas ilustres personalidades vendiendo las siglas de UP exponiéndola en la sangrienta lista de apoyo al PDGE. A Mitogo y sus colaboradores, que Dios les dé larga vida, responderán el día después ante este pueblo por todo el daño que están causando a tanta familia huérfana, exiliada, sin trabajo a causa de UNION POPULAR.

Para que vuestro silencio no suponga complicidad, es momento que los militantes y simpatizantes de PDGE sepan que su presidente fundador Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo está utilizando sus votos para regalar a su antojo a los verdugos llamados “partidos políticos de la oposición democrática”. Pues, el PDGE es siempre ganador al cien por ciento pero con la formula de 97.97% de votos a favor y 2.03% de votos a repartir.

Es momento que el pueblo de Guinea Ecuatorial se conciencie que el PDGE gobierna con o sin elecciones razón por la cual Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo viene teniendo y manteniendo a toda costa la actual antidemocrática Junta Electoral Nacional bajo control y supervisión de su Partido Dictatorial de Guinea Ecuatorial y jurado NUNCA aceptar una Junta Electoral Independiente que realice unas elecciones democráticas transparentes y fiables.

Unido a todo lo susodicho, el partido político Unión Popular a raíz del pacto electoral suscrito entre el PARTIDO DEMOCRATICO DE GUINEA ECUATORIAL Y EL CIUDADANO ALFREDO MITOGO
DECLARA:

Primera: NO HABER FIRMADO ningún Pacto Electoral con el fundador y propietario del PDGE;
Segunda: LLAMA A LA TOTAL y ABSOLUTA ABSTENCION AL VOTO para que el Partido Dictatorial de Guinea Ecuatorial haga lo que mejor le convenga con los Municipios, el Parlamento y el Senado.
Tercera: Llamamos al presidente Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo a reconsiderar su política de instigación, persecución e imposición ideológica a los ciudadanos que disienten con sus lineamientos, iniciar un diálogo sincero con todas las fuerzas vivas de la nación INTERNAS Y EXTERNAS para una salida democrática a la actual crisis nacional.

Malabo, a 17 de abril de 2013
Unidad, Justicia y Prosperidad
La Ejecutiva Nacional

Obiang donates money to non-opposition opposition parties

From Global Voices, via Ethan Zuckerman:

According to MalaboNews, on Christmas Eve 2012, apparently trying to show off to the international community, the president donated the sum of 60 million Central African Francs [US $120,000] to twelve ‘opposition’ political parties. Samuel Obiang (no relation) wrote in blog [fr] Coup de gueule de Samuel:

“The majority of these parties led by the friends of President Obiang Nguemas think of their party as a veritable source of funds – a ‘business’ as the Equatorial Guineans call it.”

There is really only one, maybe two, opposition parties in Equatorial Guinea. And only one of  them has a single representative in the legislature. Every other representative belongs to a party that is in a coalition with the ruling party.

Equatorial Guinea notes

Earlier this month I traveled to Equatorial Guinea for a week. This is of course not a lot of time, but I learned a lot, as one tends to when one’s base level of knowledge is low. (I also served on a human rights panel with two ambassadors and the Equatoguinean second vice prime minster. #ThingsThatWillNeverHappenAgain)

There are few good sources of information on EG; the best I have come across are Equatorial Guinea Justice reports and Economist Intelligence Unit reports [gated]. In the spirit of increasing the amount of information people have about EG and procrastinating on grant applications I thought I would put together some of my notes. Here they are.

  • The level of corruption during elections is high. (i.e. It’s not just things happening before the election that bias the playing field for candidates. The technical elections are themselves also corrupted.) One person told me that in his rural community on the mainland the community was offered either elections or a government-sponsored party. The community chose the party, so there was no voting.
  • The president interferes in political party organization. The president has appointed or approved the heads of virtually every party in the country. There is one very credible opposition party and one somewhat credible opposition party. The somewhat credible party has two sides: one that is full of PDGE (ruling party) cronies and has a head who was appointed by the president, and one side that is more grassroots.
  • An opposition party person told me, “the only right we have is the right to exist.” These parties are harassed in every other possible way. An issue I heard about repeatedly is that extended family of opposition party members have a hard time getting government jobs; jobs are a tool of oppression. The government uses every trick in the book to disrupt opposition party activity. They will call parallel meetings that coincide with opposition meetings to drain attendance. They will increase the price of renting a room that a party was planning to rent.
  • There is incredible government predation on private businesses, especially small businesses owned by Equatoguineans and West African immigrants. I heard a story of a women’s rights group that tried to raise money for itself by building a well and charging people for access. As soon as local government people saw that they were profiting from this, they took over the well. Nigerians, Senegalese, Malians, and Cameroonians will sometimes stay inside for days if they suspect there will be a raid on immigrants in a market, forgoing several days’ wages.
  • It’s unclear whether things have improved over the past decade. Some say it has, that the country is more open, that the increasingly common “conference tourism” is a meaningful symbol of something. Others say the only thing that has changed is that the government has gotten smarter and more calculating about how to continue to oppress people without raising an outcry from the international community. After decades of dictatorship a regime no longer needs to beat people up on the streets to scare them into submission. There are vivid collective memories of awful things the government has done to suppress protests.
  • The domestic intelligence situation has become very sophisticated. Village or neighborhood council members report to the state about ongoings in their community, and this reporting is required for them to keep their jobs.
  • Obiang appoints virtually everyone who has a government job. People who work for government are afraid of losing their job so everyone tows the government line.
  • The government frequently jails human rights advocates for a few days and then releases them. The government frequently prevents people from leaving the country to travel to conferences.
  • It’s unclear the degree to which international NGOs could operate in EG, but I think there is some space for this, and the value added of any international group in EG would be huge. Local groups currently operate with virtually no external funding. To the best of my knowledge, besides a biodiversity NGO, no international NGO operates in EG. Some say the lack of an international NGO presence is because of inaccurate perceptions that EG would be closed to this. My sense is that an international NGO would be able to operate if they did not try to do everything by the book. e.g. Registering NGOs sounds like a nightmare. If an international NGO just started operations and worked in other ways by the book, but did not try to register, it would probably be possible to operate.
  • Obiang appointed his son (the notorious one) as second vice president this year. This position does not exist constitutionally; there should just be one vice president. One interpretation for this decision is that Obiang wants to groom his son for succession, but his son is in fact not very popular domestically. He is seen as flaunting and not sufficiently sharing his wealth.
  • EG is extremely isolated by language. Even most educated people in EG do not speak English or French. Most people in Malabo speak Spanish and a local language, meaning that when they are invited to conferences in other West African countries they often can’t fully participate. There is a huge opportunity for EG civil society groups to get connected to groups in Latin America.
  • There is intentional and unintentional brain drain from civil society. Sometimes the government coopts civil society leaders into government. In other situations, when people have private sector jobs they are prevented from partaking in any other activities, even volunteering. Thus taking a job with an oil company would preclude someone from NGO work. In a part of the world where many people who work for NGOs have other jobs that actually pay the bills, this is a serious constraint.
  • There is great distrust throughout society due to a fear of informants. This impedes civil society collaboration.
  • Restrictions on civil society activity are arbitrary. Sometimes groups get away with things and sometimes they don’t.
  • The government will occasionally work to defame individual civil society activists who have annoyed them.
  • The government is very good at doing activities that create a facade of support for Equatoguineans, when in fact the product of these efforts can be targeted to reward ruling party supporters. An example is “social housing,” very nice housing the government funds and then distributes to allies. African immigrants find this housing very attractive, as it protects them from government predation. The implication is if you live there, you have government support. Immigrants often pay top price to rent units from government allies who officially received the housing. Another example of this phenomena is a fund the first lady has that is used to send people overseas for medical treatment. Why invest in clinics when you can use that money to target help at only the sick people who are your allies?
Social Housing in Malabo II

Social Housing in Malabo II

  • The EG government is not diligent about requiring that civil society groups register funds they receive from foreigners. It would be quite easy for an international NGO that wanted to support local groups to get them funds.
  • There are several individuals in EG who run local NGOs who are serious and would be eager collaborators with international groups on human rights issues. They are afraid, but not that afraid. They don’t want outside groups to make decisions about what activities are or are not safe for them to engage in.

If anyone reading this is interesting in extending their organization’s work to Equatorial Guinea and would like contacts, just let me know.