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.

AFP

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.

AFP

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.

AFP

Equatorial Guinea Launches Manhunt After Coup Bid

EQUATORIAL GUINEA’S PRESIDENT TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO ADDRESSING THE 72ND SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY AT THE UN HEADQUARTERS IN NEW YORK. JEWEL SAMAD / AFP

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.

AFP

Equatorial Guinea Banned From 2019 FIFA Women World Cup

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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.

Cross River Set To Float Cally Air And Shipping Lines

airline and shipping line floating plan underway in cross riverCross River State Government has completed plans to float its own airline as well as a shipping line, as part of efforts to increase revenue and lower dependence on federal allocation.

Addressing reporters in Calabar, Governor Ben Ayade said the state was taking full advantage of its huge tourism potentials and vast maritime resources by going into both airline and maritime services.

Huge Maritime Resources

The governor noted that while Cally Air was expected to transport tourists from all over Nigeria to the beautiful tourist sites dotted across the state, particularly the famous Obudu Ranch Resort, the shipping line would concentrate primarily on cargo services, especially along the shoreline of the Gulf of Guinea.

Ayade maintained that “Cross River State is only taking full advantage of its huge maritime resources by focusing on maritime trading particularly, cabotage services by providing merchant vessels that will ply the Gulf of Guinea and provide services to countries along this shoreline.

“In our 2017 budget, there is a provision for a merchant vessel that will provide maritime businesses with Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroun and the entire stretch of the shoreline.

“There is another provision for Wharf landing and other support services. So, we are also going to have a fabrication yard and other allied maritime services as we refocus on broadening the maritime sector in the state”.

Justifying government’s decision to venture into maritime services, Professor Ayade reasoned that with the maritime trade and connectivity along the region, his administration was confident that the return on the investment would definitely be huge and contribute immensely to the budget of infinite transposition.

“Our vessels are already berthing in Calabar as part of investment in 2017 because we are establishing business outlays in some West and Central African countries dealing mostly on petroleum products and because Cross River State is looking at an aggregate of driving an industrialised, business-like module for governance, soon, you will see us go into full time trading.

“That is why in our budget, we have budgeted about 14 billion Naira to expand investment in this direction to the Gambia,” the Governor explained.

Professor Ayade further told reporters that the state had the capacity to handle the huge investments, knowing full well that, it is a very delicate combination of public-private service administration structure running it from a private business perspective.

Cross River is announcing its plan two days after Imo State government said it had taken delivery of the first aircraft, to kick start, as the first state owned commercial airline, Imo Air.

During the official launch of the new airline at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo airport in Owerri, the Imo state capital, the Governor Rochas Okorocha said the investment by the state government would boost economic activities in the state.

He added that it would increase the state Internally Generated Revenue and also generate employment opportunities for teaming unemployed youths in the state.

Regional Security Summit Commences In Abuja

Security SummitNigeria is hosting the second regional security meeting in Abuja to consolidate efforts for regional peace and development. The summit has commenced.

The Multi-National Joint Task Force Commander has drawn the attention of member states to the need for improved allowances for the troops and purchase of equipment for detecting and destroying IEDs.

Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission is asking member states to begin to fix attention on developmental programmes which will address the root causes of insecurity in the region.

Saturday is for the presentation of the recommendations from the series of meetings they will be holding to the leaders of member states.

Discussions at the Summit will focus on intelligence on the location and rescue of the over 200 abducted Chibok girls and an implementable action plan for the joint fight against insurgency in the African region.

Presidents of four member countries of the Lake Chad Basin will be attending the Summit as well as representatives of other neighbouring African countries, the European Union, the United States and the British government.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Lolo Bulus, said that the Summit is sequel to the Security Summit in Paris.

President Buhari To Host Security Summit

security summit, President BuhariNigeria will host the second regional security summit in Abuja as part of efforts by the federal government to boost the security of lives and properties.

According to a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, the summit will attract leaders from across the globe including French President, Francois Hollande who hosted the first regional security summit in Paris on May 17, 2014.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the French President who is scheduled to arrive in Abuja on Friday will be joined at the summit by the presidents of Cameroon, Niger Republic, Chad and Benin Republic.

The United States, Britain, Equatorial Guinea, the European Union, Ecowas, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission will also be represented at the summit.

The summit will have the successful conclusion of ongoing military operations against Boko Haram at the top of its agenda.

Agreements on further defence and cultural cooperation between Nigeria and France are expected to be concluded between the two presidents.

Buhari Calls For Social Justice To Curb Internal Conflicts

Muhammadu Buhari - AfricanIn a bid to achieve greater peace and political stability in their countries, President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday asked African leaders to work harder to ensure social justice for all their citizens.

He made the appeal at an audience with the Foreign Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Mr Agapito Mba Mokuy, in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

President Buhari maintained that as leaders of sovereign nations, African Heads of Government must be allowed to discharge their responsibility for peace and security within their countries, without external interference.

He explained that this was why Heads of State and Government of the African Union decided against sending peacekeeping troops to Burundi during the country’s recent political crisis.

President Buhari disclosed that he expected the Government of Burundi to work towards greater peace, national unity and social justice for all Burundians to justify the decision of the African Union.

“Governments should be responsible for the security of their countries. Burundi must therefore ensure social justice for all of its people so as not to disappoint Africa in the eyes of the world,” the President told the Minister who was in Abuja as a Special Envoy of President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

He assured him that Nigeria would continue to work with Equatorial Guinea and other nations to strengthen the African Union and its various organs for the good of the continent.

The President added that Nigeria would also welcome more cooperation with Equatorial Guinea and other members of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, to curb piracy and enhance security in the gulf.