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20 Apr 2012 00:00
While French authorities are deciding whether to issue an international warrant for the arrest of Equatorial Guinea’s agriculture minister, Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, he is visiting Swaziland, where he is said to be dating King Mswati’s daughter and was expected to attend the monarch’s 44th birthday party.
Mswati shifted his birthday celebrations, which were supposed to be held on Thursday April 19, to the following day, forcing the country into a long weekend.
Obiang is the son of Equatorial Guinea President Teodore Obiang Nguema, one of Africa’s longest-ruling dictators.
He is reportedly dating Mswati’s oldest daughter, Sikhanyiso, whom the king is allegedly using to cement relations with the Obiang dynasty.
Obiang Junior is widely perceived as being groomed to succeed his father.
Royal spokesperson Percy Simelane said the government did not “give credence and legitimacy to untruths peddled by rumour-mongers hellbent to ridicule the monarch”.
He also denied that Obiang was visiting Swaziland to be a guest at Mswati’s birthday celebrations.
Obiang was charged with corruption in France earlier this year after Transparency International and other non-governmental organisations took him to court alleging that he had spent state funds on lavish private purchases of property and vehicles in France.
His co-accused are Congo-Brazzaville President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Omar Bongo, the late president of Gabon.
According to Agence France-Presse, Transparency alleges that Obiang owned vehicles worth more than €4-million in France.
Together, the three leaders are alleged to have accumulated French assets worth €160-million (about $210-million).
AFP also reported that 11 of the Obiang family’s luxury cars were seized in Paris in September last year as part of the criminal investigation.
In February, the police searched an Obiang residence in an upmarket Paris district, removing vanloads of possessions.
Obiang is also deputy head of his country’s mission to the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which gives him diplomatic immunity.
His presence in Swaziland was confirmed earlier this year by the local media, which reported that R2.9-million worth of euros and dollars had been stolen from his hotel room in the royal villa in Swaziland’s Ezulwini valley.
Police commissioner Isaac Magagula conceded that Obiang had not declared the cash on entering the country.
It is said to have been carried in a briefcase, in violation of Swazi anti-money laundering legislation.
In January, during his father’s state visit to Swaziland, it was announced that Equatorial Guinea would supply the kingdom with oil.
Details of the deal remain scanty, however. Simelane confirmed that it was being finalised, adding only that “all investments come with economic benefits. This oil deal may not be different.”
But some have challenged claims that the deal will benefit Swaziland, which has no oil refinery.
Swazi democracy activist Mandla Hlatshwayo, who lives in exile in South Africa, said: “Sources indicate that oil production in Guinea is fully committed to long-term contracts with international trading groups. It remains to be seen how the Swazi offer will be made up.”
An indication of the sensitivity around Obiang junior’s visit to Swaziland was a public apology by The Swazi Observer, which Mswati owns through Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, after it published a wire report about Obiang’s criminal charges in France.
According to Muzi Masuku, programme manager for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Swaziland is not compelled to hand over Obiang in response to an international warrant of arrest because it has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Sibongile Mazibuko, an activist and president of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, said: “It is sad that the king has chosen to associate with this person. What if Obiang is found guilty of the crimes he is accused of and part of the money he allegedly squandered is traced to our country?”
The Mail & Guardian was not able to contact Obiang junior in Swaziland this week.
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