Equatorial Guinea: Attempted coup hatched ‘on French soil’

Equatorial Guinea said Wednesday that an attempted coup against its government was organised in France, amplifying charges that an exile living in Europe was behind the plot.

“The plan was organised on French territory,” Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy told a press conference.

“It has nothing to do with the French government,” he said, adding, “we will cooperate with France as soon as we have more information”.

Mokuy also said that in the light of the purported coup, his country was suspending participation in a new scheme to allow visa-free travel among six countries in central and western Africa.

Equatorial Guinea is a small, oil-rich state that has been ruled since 1979 by Teodoro Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving president.

Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption. He has faced a string of coup attempts during nearly four decades in power.

The government says that foreign mercenaries mounted an attempted putsch on December 24 but it was thwarted.

Mokuy said 27 “terrorists or mercenaries” had been arrested in a manhunt after the attempted coup, but “around 150” others were still being sought near the border with Cameroon.

Cameroon security sources said that the “mercenaries” arrested by Cameroonian police were Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans, as citizens of the Central African Republic are called.

On Tuesday, CAR President Faustin-Archange Touader visited capital Malabo to offer his support to the government.

“We need to know if the Centrafricans that were arrested have real of fake Centrafrican passports,” the presidency in Bangui told AFP.

Last Friday, Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zen Cherif said after a visit to Malabo that the author of the coup bid “is believed to be an Equatorial Guinean national living in Europe”.

– Visa-free movement suspended –

Foreign Minister Mokuy also said Equatorial Guinea was suspending its part in an agreement with five other francophone states— Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Gabon and the Republic of Congo — to allow visa-free movement of their citizens among member nations.

The bloc, called the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), began negotiations on the scheme more than 15 years ago.

The process was hampered by fears by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon — oil-rich and relatively sparsely populated — that they would be swamped by an influx of job-seekers from poorer members.

Negotiations culminated in an announcement at a summit in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena on November 1 that the pact had finally been ratified by all six states.

Mokuy, in Wednesday’s press conference, said “free circulation doesn’t mean that you can move around as you want”.

“You have to have a biometric passport, a CEMAC passport, a secure passport. So long as these conditions are not met, and given what has happened in Equatorial Guinea, we say that in order to travel to our country (people have) to go to our embassies” for a visa, he said.

– Tense relations with France –

Obiang, 75, took power in a coup on August 3 1979, ousting his own uncle, who was shot by firing squad.

He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90% of the vote according to the official results.

Legislative elections on November 12 last year saw the ruling party win 92% of the vote, a result condemned as fraudulent by dissidents.

The small west African nation is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2-million population still lives in poverty.

Relations with France are tense after Obiang’s son, Teodorin Obiang, 48, was given a three-year suspended prison sentence by a French court in October for embezzling public funds, money-laundering and corruption and abuse of trust.

The younger Obiang is estimated to have used France to launder €150-million ($180-million) in misappropriated funds.

He was also given a suspended fine of €30-million. His lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Step-aside guidelines are not about Ace, says Mathews Phosa

The guidelines must be ‘timeless, uniting and not capable of being abused,’ says ANC veteran

Q&A Sessions: ‘Media isn’t dying, it’s changing’

Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa, chief executive of global internet company Naspers, has held senior posts in investment and development banking. She tells Tshegofatso Mathe about her family life in Soweto and her career, including with Cyril Ramaphosa before he went back to politics

More top stories

Hlophe throws out Bongo corruption case

Former state security minister walks free after judge finds there is not sufficient evidence of attempted bribery to scupper Eskom probe

Exposing a Congolese bank’s dirty secrets

Meet Gardi Koko and Navy Malela, the two whistleblowers who risked everything to raise the alarm

The private-sector players who facilitated public-sector fraud

Let us never forget the private-sector players who facilitated public-sector fraud

Pregnant women should be vaccinated, doctors say

New research shows that there has been an increase in maternal deaths during the Covid-19 restriction

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…