‘Positive steps’ in Equatorial Guinea?

Severo Moto
Washington Post
October 9, 2004

Letter to the Editor

The Sept. 2 letter from Ambassador Teodoro Biyogo Nsue of Equatorial Guinea mentioned “recent positive steps taken” by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s regime.

However, the International Monetary Fund recently issued reports critical of Equatorial Guinea’s lack of transparency and accountability on fiscal matters. Further, Equatorial Guinea’s government does not account for funds from national oil revenue, which, according to a U.S. Senate investigation on money laundering, are diverted to the personal accounts of members of the president’s family. Abayak – a group owned by Mr. Obiang – also controls Equatorial Guinea’s biggest projects, including the Malabo gas plant. Most government and security posts are held by Mr. Obiang’s family.

Recent elections were won with 97.5 percent of votes going to Mr. Obiang’s party. Observers were unanimous in their harsh criticism of these elections. Opposition parties were subject to threats and violence, according to the international press.

The Bush administration has condemned the Obiang regime for not fighting human trafficking. Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders all have named Mr. Obiang as one of the world’s worst dictators. The State Department also has criticized the country’s human rights abuses, use of torture and culture of corruption.

Cesar Chelala, a public health consultant and writer on human rights issues, found during a recent visit to Equatorial Guinea that despite the phenomenal oil boom, the living standard of ordinary people had not improved in a decade. Malaria is rampant, and child morbidity and mortality rates have not improved. New wealth has been almost exclusively used for the enrichment of the country’s leaders.

Equatorial Guinea needs free elections, shared oil revenue and an independent judicial system.

Severo Moto, Madrid. The writer is head of an Equatorial Guinea opposition party in exile in Spain.

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