Equatorial Guinea Offers China $2m To Fight Coronavirus

Pedestrians wear face masks in Hong Kong on February 5, 2020, as a preventative measure following a virus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan. AFP


The tiny central African state of Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday said it would give $2 million (1.8 million euros) to China to help it tackle coronavirus.

The government, which has developed close ties with Beijing, said the donation was a mark of “support and solidarity.”

The new coronavirus has claimed nearly 500 lives, infected more than 24,000 people in mainland China and spread to more than 20 countries since it appeared in late December.

While there has not yet been a confirmed infection reported in sub-Saharan Africa, many countries on the continent have imposed preventative measures.

On January 27, Equatorial Guinea announced that all people entering the country from China would be quarantined for 14 days.

It has since placed 25 people in isolation, according to the country’s national committee to counter the virus.

Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich state with an entrenched record of authoritarian rule and poverty, has developed close economic links with Beijing. Chinese companies have been awarded a string of contracts for infrastructure projects.


How Nigeria, Other African Nations Are Preventing Spread Of Coronavirus

A laborant at the State Health Authorities of Baden-Wuerttemberg works on a test sample of a suspected case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Stuttgart, sothern Germany on January 29, 2020. Germany’s first confirmed coronavirus patient caught the disease from a Chinese colleague who visited Germany last week, officials said on January 28, 2020, in the first human-to-human transmission on European soil, according to an AFP tally. Marijan Murat / dpa / AFP


African states, including the continent’s biggest economy, Nigeria, on Wednesday said they had begun to introduce measures aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus.

No verified infection has been reported to date in sub-Saharan Africa, but elsewhere, countries have stopped flights to China and airlifted their citizens out of the area where the virus emerged.

Nigeria issued a travel advisory advising “all Nigerians and persons intending to travel to China” to delay their plans unless the trip is “extremely essential.”

People arriving from China or any country with a “major outbreak” of the disease are advised to stay at home for at least two weeks if they develop any symptoms, according to the advisory issued by Health Minister Osagie Ehanire.

The authorities are also requiring airlines to report any case of sickness on board before the plane lands in Nigeria.


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“Nigerian ports, health services, and (the) Nigeria Centre for Disease Control are on alert at our airports and other ports of entry,” the advisory said.

Meanwhile, the small central African state of Equatorial Guinea, said it had quarantined four travellers who had arrived from Beijing.

The four had landed on Tuesday aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight at the airport in the capital of Malabo, the government said.

On Monday, the prime minister’s office had announced that all passengers from China would be placed in quarantine for 14 days.

In West Africa, the Chinese embassy in Mauritania said China had asked its nationals who have recently arrived or returned to the country to remain confined for at least 14 days.

There was no indication that the message was motivated by any specific situation in Mauritania.

The embassy also advised Chinese planning to travel to Mauritania to postpone their trip. It said those already in the country should communicate daily about their health and avoid public gatherings.

Experts say the potential spread of the virus in Africa is a concern because of the poor healthcare infrastructure in many parts of the continent.

An oil-rich state with an entrenched record of authoritarian rule and poverty, Equatorial Guinea has developed close economic ties with Beijing.

Chinese companies have been awarded a string of contracts for infrastructure projects.

The Mauritanian government has set up a crisis unit and placed thermal cameras at the airports of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.

Many of the Chinese in Mauritania work in technical assistance, Chinese projects and trade operations, but there no direct flights between the two countries.

IMF Loans Equatorial Guinea $280m Despite Controversy

The International Monetary Fund, is an international organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.


The International Monetary Fund has extended a 280-million-dollar loan to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, despite protests by rights monitors who cited sweeping misrule and corruption in the central African country.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam had opposed the loan until the government of the country, ruled with an iron fist by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for four decades, cleaned up its act.

“The arrangement is intended to support the authorities’ three-year economic program, which aims at further reducing macroeconomic imbalances and addressing financial sector vulnerabilities; improving social protection and human capital development; promoting economic diversification; and fostering good governance, increasing transparency and fighting corruption,” an IMF statement said Thursday.

About $40.4 million of the total will be disbursed immediately and the remainder over a three-year period, the Washington-based lender said.

IMF deputy managing director Tao Zhang said: “In recent years, the Equatoguinean economy has been impacted by a sharp decline in oil prices and a secular decline in hydrocarbon output, which led to large macroeconomic imbalances and negative economic growth.

“The economy has also been affected by longstanding governance and corruption problems.

“While the authorities have taken steps to address these challenges, a more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle them effectively and achieve sustainable and inclusive growth,” Tao said.

“The IMF loan should force Equatorial Guinea to undertake deep reforms in the way the country exploits its natural resources,” said Sarah Saadoun, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“A slew of international lawsuits for corruption have been filed against the son of the president, who holds the post of vice-president”, added Tutu Alicante, the head of a local NGO called EG Justice.

Vice President Teodorin Obiang Nguema is notorious for his free-spending lifestyle and his multi-million-dollar mansions strewn across the world in some of the world’s most expensive areas.

Rights groups accuse President Obiang of ruthlessly clamping down on the opposition and institutional corruption.

Despite its oil wealth, the vast majority of the population live in dire poverty.



Equatorial Guinea Seeks To End Hire Of War Mercenaries In Central Africa

US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, chairs a UN Security Council meeting on “Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” December 11, 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York. Eskinder DEBEBE / UNITED NATIONS / AFP


Equatorial Guinea this week submitted a draft resolution to its fellow UN Security Council members on reinforcing efforts to combat mercenaries fighting in central Africa.

The draft, obtained Tuesday by AFP, does not name any specific countries, but instead calls on all member states to stamp out the practice of hiring foreign fighters.

It asks them to “introduce legislative measures to ensure that their nationals do not participate in the recruitment, gathering, financing, training, protection or transit of foreign mercenaries or combatants.”

It also asks that they refrain from the “planning of activities to destabilize the situation in a state or undermine or totally or partially compromise the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent states.”

Several UN missions were surprised at the filing of the draft, as Equatorial Guinea’s two-year term on the Security Council as a non-permanent member ends on December 31.

One diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that a vote on the measure was not a sure thing.

The draft is focused on central Africa — a region that includes Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Chad and other countries.

Russian mercenaries have been active in the area in the past, and Moscow has recently been accused of involving itself in the deployment of armed fighters in Libya and Mali.

Russia denies the claims.

The draft resolution says that the United Nations is “alarmed by the danger that mercenary activities represent for international peace and security… especially for central African states.”

It “urges all central African states to take the necessary measures, cooperate with each other and exercise maximum vigilance against the threat posed by mercenaries.”



Internet: A Distant Dream For Many In Oil-Rich Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is awash in oil, although little of the wealth has trickled down to the poor.

Also, one of the most glaring inequalities is access to the internet.

Other parts of the world are pushing ahead with plans for fast, free — or at least low-cost — universal online access. Equatorial Guinea, a small reclusive state on the coast of central-western Africa, seems stuck in a timewarp.

With rare exceptions, sluggish speeds and stratospheric bills are the daily lot of people who want to search for information on the web, use social media, email, messaging and the myriad of other internet activities that are routine elsewhere.

“The internet in Equatorial Guinea is still a big-money business, reserved for those who can afford it,” said Mboro Mba, 35, seated on the ground behind a hotel as he tried to hook into a free wi-fi service with his smartphone.

Equatorial Guinea has the most expensive internet in the world after Zimbabwe, according to a list published this year by Ecobank, a pan-African bank.

One gigabyte of mobile data — roughly equivalent to watching an hour of television on Netflix — costs an eye-watering $35 dollars (31 euros).

By comparison, the average monthly pay of a manual worker or restaurant waiter in Equatorial Guinea is between 100,000-150,000 CFA francs ($170-260, 150-230 euros).

“For 2,000 CFA francs (3.40 euros), I can’t even download an 80-second video,” a local journalist told colleagues from central Africa who had come to Malabo to cover a regional meeting and found themselves caught out by internet problems.

“You really have to be patient to work with the internet in this country,” said a visitor from the Republic of Congo, unsuccessfully trying to send files to his editor.

The barriers to internet access here are so high that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, estimates that just a quarter — 26 percent — of Equatorial Guineans go online.

The authorities have set up a “free, public internet network” along the Paseo Maritimo, a seafront six kilometres (3.5 miles) long in Malabo that is also used for sporting activities and leisurely strolls.

“I come here almost every evening to talk on WhatsApp to my mother who is in Spain,” says Filomena, 32, a clothes vendor.

“I don’t have the money to have an internet connection, so I come here often with my friends to use the wi-fi,” schoolboy Jorge Obiang says, leaning against a tree with several young companions, all glued to their screens.

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is nominally one of the richest states in Africa thanks to oil income.

By next month, its president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, will have ruled with an iron fist for 40 years — the longest tenure of any African leader alive today.

He has long been criticised for corruption within the regime and lack of openness to the rest of the world.

The slow service is especially paradoxical since “the country is situated in the Gulf of Guinea and so has access to a number of seabed cables”, said Julie Owono of Internet Sans Frontieres (Internet Without Borders), an NGO.

Equatorial Guinea — consisting of an island where Malabo lies and a forested territory on the African mainland that hosts trading capital Bata — is connected to three undersea fibre optic cables supplying internet service.

In neighbouring Gabon, internet access is five times less expensive on the scale drawn up by Ecobank.

No competition

The sky-high price of the internet “is explained by the very strong presence of the state (telecom) company on the market and lack of competition,” Owono said.

“Everything here is centralised, political decisions depend on one person or a family, and it is difficult to establish a competitive market.”

The state telecoms agency GITGE, which sets tariffs, declined to respond to AFP’s questions.

Another disincentive for the competition is internet blackouts ordered by those in power, she said.

In November 2017, on the eve of parliamentary elections, access to WhatsApp was blocked and social media became unavailable for five months.

“We’re living in the information era — the government is applying an enormous brake,” said Owono.


France Urges United Nation’s Top Court To Dump Equatorial Guinea Case

Macron 'Happy' Merkel Coalition Deal In Sight
File: French President Emmanuel Macron                                                                                IMAGE:LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP


France on Monday urged the UN’s top court to throw out a case brought against it in a bitter diplomatic row with oil-rich Equatorial Guinea over French accusations of top-level corruption.

“France has not accepted the jurisdiction of this court under any title whatsoever to entertain those facts on which Equatorial Guinea seeks the court to rule,” the French representative Francois Alabrune told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Malabo has accused Paris of violating the diplomatic immunity of its vice president, Teodorin Obiang, after he was prosecuted by a French court on charges of embezzling 150 million euros ($180 million) of public funds to finance his jet-set lifestyle.

Obiang, 48, the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, was tried in absentia and sentenced in October to a three-year suspended sentence for corruption.

The top official from the small central African state was also given a suspended fine of 30 million euros ($35 million) for money laundering, corruption and abuse. His lawyer has said he will appeal.

But Equatorial Guinea has also lodged a complaint with the ICJ in The Hague, the UN’s top court set up to resolve disputes between countries.

Four days of hearings opened Monday, with France setting out its reasons why it believed the ICJ is not competent to hear the case.

Equatorial Guinea contends however that not only was the Vienna Convention conferring diplomatic immunity on Obiang broken, but French officials also failed to uphold the diplomatic status of a building it maintains is Malabo’s embassy in Paris.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa longest-serving president and has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1979. He extended his rule in April 2016 when he was re-elected with 93.7 percent of the vote.

He appointed his son as vice president in June 2016 — two years after the first charges were first brought in France.

In 2012, French authorities swooped on the Obiang family’s six-storey mansion on the Avenue Foch — one of the most upmarket addresses in Paris — seizing it along with a fleet of luxury cars including two Bugatti Veyrons and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Police also took away vanloads of valuables, including paintings, a $4.2-million clock and fine wines worth thousands of euros per bottle.

The UN judges in The Hague in 2016 urged France to ensure the protection of the diplomatic mission in Paris, but sidestepped Malabo’s request to order Obiang’s trial to be halted.

Relations between the two countries have furthered deteriorated after Malabo’s foreign minister, Agapito Mba Mokuy, said an attempted coup in December had been hatched on French soil, although he said the French authorities had “nothing to do with” it.


Equatorial Guinea President Meets Buhari, Slams Boko Haram

The President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Mbasogo has called for collaborative efforts to ensuring peace and development of the continent.

Mbasogo made this known when he visited President Buhari on Tuesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

He described coup plotters in the country and also the Boko Haram terrorists as dogs.

In solving the crisis between Nigeria and Cameroon, Mbasogo suggested dialogue and called for discussions among members of the region to be initiated by Nigeria, in tackling piracy and oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea.

UN Vows To Support Equatorial Guinea After ‘Coup’ Plot

File photo: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP

A United Nations special envoy has assured oil-rich Equatorial Guinea it will be supported in its “stabilisation efforts” following a “coup attempt” against President Teodoro Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader.

Francois Lounceny Fall, a former prime minister of Guinea, arrived in Equatorial Guinea over the weekend to meet Obiang and to “gather more information” on the putsch that Malabo said was mounted by foreign mercenaries on December 24.

“We are leaving here comforted by the assurances we have received from the President of the Republic, and I can say that the United Nations will continue to support Equatorial Guinea in its stabilisation efforts,” Fall said on Monday in a speech broadcast on state television at the end of his visit.

“The United Nations has made a clear statement against the use of force against states. The unconstitutional seizure of power is condemned by both the African Union (AU) and the Nations,” added Fall, the head of the UN’s central African office.

The Equatorial Guinea government has said its troops shot dead one “mercenary” and “used gunfire to disperse” others in the forests along the border with Cameroon, without specifying how many fighters were involved or how long the clashes lasted.

Equatorial Guinea’s main opposition party, Citizens for Innovation (CI), has said dozens of its activists were arrested in recent weeks following the alleged coup attempt.

According to the party, which did not meet the UN envoy, national security forces “besieged” its headquarters for 10 days, only abandoning their posts on Monday morning, shortly before the UN envoy met Obiang at the presidential palace in Malabo.

The information could not be confirmed by official sources, and state media did not report it.

Formerly a small Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers, but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.

Obiang, 75, who seized power in 1979, has faced a string of coup attempts during nearly four decades in office.

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

Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.


Equatorial Guinea Launches Manhunt After Coup Bid


Equatorial Guinea has launched a dragnet for “mercenaries” behind an attempt to overthrow President Theodoro Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader, a senior government official said on Friday.

Separately, Chad said an Equatorial Guinean, living in exile in Europe, is believed to have been behind the attempted coup.

“We are carrying out intensive searches everywhere,” the government official, reached by phone from the Gabonese capital Libreville, told AFP.

The manhunt, the official said, is focused on “the Ebibeyin zone and other forests nearby,” located near the border with Cameroon and Gabon.

It is also being carried out “in towns where they are believed to have infiltrated”, in the capital Malabo as well as Bata, Ebibeyin and Mongomo, the source said.

The small west African nation was put on alert Wednesday after a senior government official announced that a putsch mounted by foreign mercenaries on December 24 had been put down.

Obiang, 75, who seized power in 1979, has faced a string of coup attempts during nearly four decades in power.

Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.

In a separate development on Friday, Chadian Foreign Minister, Mahamat Zen Cherif, said the coup bid was believed to have been backed by an exile living abroad.

“The sponsor is believed to be an Equatorial Guinean national living in Europe, and the arms were bought in a country outside CEMAC,” he said in a statement to reporters in the Chadian capital Njdamena, after a visit to Malabo.

CEMAC — the Central African Economic and Monetary Community — is a six-nation bloc of francophone states comprising Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

On Thursday, the United Nations said it would send its envoy for West Africa, Francois Louceny Fall, to Malabo for talks next week.

A UN spokesman said that while “little information” had emerged over last month’s alleged coup attempt, “we condemn all attempts to seize power unconstitutionally.”

According to Malabo’s security minister, Nicolas Obama Nchama, the mercenaries were Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans, as citizens of the Central African Republic are called.

They were “recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers”, he alleged.

The attempted infiltration had been repelled with the help of the Cameroon security services, according to the authorities.

Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, has become one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.

Equatorial Guinea Vice President Faces Verdict In Paris Graft Trial

Teodorin Nguema Obiang. Photo: JEROME LEROY / AFP

A French court will on Friday hand down a verdict in the landmark “ill-gotten gains” trial of Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, who is accused of raiding his country’s coffers to fund a jet-set lifestyle in Paris.

Teodorin Obiang, the 48-year-old son of the country’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, is accused of spending more than 1,000 times his official annual salary on a six-storey mansion in a posh part of Paris, a fleet of fast cars, a collection of luxury suits and artworks.

The case, which was kickstarted by two anti-corruption groups, is the first in a trio targeting families of African leaders accused of living it up in France on the proceeds of corruption.

The entourages of two other long-serving African leaders have also been investigated: late Gabonese leader Omar Bongo and the Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Prosecutors in Obiang’s case argue he could not have funded his ultra-luxurious lifestyle without pilfering public money in his West African homeland, where more than half the population lives in abject poverty.

They have called for him to be given a three-year jail term and a 30 million-euro ($35 million) fine if convicted of embezzlement, corruption, misuse of assets and breach of trust.

But it is unlikely the millionaire playboy with a taste for Michael Jackson memorabilia will serve time if convicted.

He did not attend his three-week trial in June and July in Paris and is also not expected in court for the verdict.

He has dismissed the case as a “farce” aimed at damaging the image of sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest oil producer.

His lawyers accused French authorities of “meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state” and said a guilty verdict would require the court to investigate the legality of all his purchases, taking France beyond its jurisdiction.

– Suitcases of cash –

Obiang was agriculture and forestry minister before his 75-year-old father — in power since 1979 — made him second vice president in 2012 and then first vice president last year.

Many of his eye-popping purchases were allegedly made through Somagui Forestal, a forestry company that prosecutors called “an empty shell used solely to channel public money.”

His tastes included sharp suits from Paris’s top tailors, whom he paid with suitcases of cash.

Obiang said the money came from legitimate sources and that all his purchases were legal.

– Coup plotter –

The trial had a moment of drama when former British mercenary Simon Mann, who led a failed 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea, took to the stand to testify on behalf of the government he tried to overthrow.

Mann, who spent several years in prison in Equatorial Guinea, alleged that the case brought by the NGOs Sherpa and Transparency International bore the imprint of US billionaire George Soros, whom he accused of plotting to overthrow Obiang’s father.

The affair first made headlines in 2011 when French police raided Obiang’s mansion on the glitzy Avenue Foch in Paris, hiring trucks to haul away a fleet of Bugattis, Ferraris, a Rolls-Royce Phantom and other cars from the scene.

Investigators seized the property a year later.

Prosecutors have asked the court to confiscate the mansion, which is valued at 107 million euros ($123 million).

Equatorial Guinea argues that the building is a diplomatic residence and has referred the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the UN’s top court.

In an interim ruling last year, the UN court ordered France to “take all measures at its disposal” to ensure the property be given the same protections as all other diplomatic locations until the case had been resolved.


Equatorial Guinea Banned From 2019 FIFA Women World Cup


Equatorial Guinea have been banned from the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France for fielding 10 ineligible players and using forged documents.

The players all took part in qualifying for the 2016 Olympic women’s tournament in Brazil.

FIFA has also imposed a fine of $102,000 on the country’s football association.

The two-time champions will not feature at the 2020 Olympics and the next two Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2018 and 2020.

Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Others Elected To UN Security Council

Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Others Elected To UN Security CouncilThe 193-member United Nations General Assembly has elected Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea to the U.N. Security Council.

The African countries were elected on Friday alongside Kuwait, Peru and Poland for a two-year term starting January 1, 2018.

While all the countries were running unopposed, they still needed more than two-thirds of the overall vote to win a seat.

Ivory Coast received 189 votes, Equatorial Guinea got 185, Kuwait received 188, Peru won 186, Poland got 190, and the Netherlands received 184 votes.

The Council is made up of 10 elected members, five voted on each year and five permanent veto-powers: the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

The Council is the only U.N. body that can make legally-binding decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorise the use of force.

To ensure geographical representation on the Council, there are five seats apportioned for African and Asian states; one for Eastern European states; two for the Latin American and Caribbean states, as well as two for Western European and other states.