Take2: The trouble with the Guinea

In Africa, three countries are known as Guinea this or Guinea that. There is Guinea-Conakry, where according to news reports, soldiers have killed 157 protesters; then there is Guinea-Bissau and the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

If you thought all guinea fowls roamed free in Africa, there is a Papua New Guinea in the Pacific to set your head in a confused whirl.

Guinea-Conakry, now led by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, was once a French possession; Guinea-Bissau was once, alongside Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe, the plaything of the Portuguese.

Equatorial Guinea, a tiny speck on the African map, is one of the few countries on the continent whose official language is Spanish.

Names can be deceiving, especially in the case of Equatorial Guinea. None of the oil rich country’s territory is on the imaginary line we know as the equator. Its capital, Malabo, is off the coast somewhere in the Atlantic.

All these countries share a commonality: they are badly run. It shouldn’t be like this, certainly for Guinea Bissau, the country that gave the world the revolutionary Amilcar Cabral. Now it’s notorious as Africa’s first narco-state.

After years of civil war, Colombian and Mexican drug cartels are using it as a pad to move their contraband into Europe. It’s favoured status has, I guess, a lot to do with the fact that it could be the only country in the world with no prison.

Equatorial Guinea, lubricated by petrodollars, is not any better. Of all the Guineas, the goings on in Equatorial Guinea are well reported in this part of Africa. This is, largely, because of the Mark Thatcher funded foiled coup attempt by Simon Mann—that mercenary from Eton. It also has to do with the fact that Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo—who deposed and then killed his uncle—mantains close relations with South Africa and Zimbabwe, where the mercenaries were arrested on their way to Malabo.

Obiang’s uncle was, by all accounts, a bloodthirsty man. It is reported that on Christmas day in 1975, uncle Macías Nguema had 150 alleged coup plotters executed in a stadium to the sound of a band playing Mary Hopkin’s tune Those Were the Days.

What is it about the guineas that seems to invite dysfunctionality and scandal? After all the bird that these countries are named after is known for monogamous relationships that span their lifetimes.

Percy Zvomuya

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