- Aug 24, 2002
The Dictator of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema yesterday started on an "official" visit to Angola with a hidden agenda revealed by a high ranking official of his delegation. President Obiang wants to persuade his Angolan partner José Eduardo dos Santos to send troops to Equatorial Guinea as he believes there may come tough times in the near future, when he plans to hand powers over to his son.
The hidden agenda of the Equatoguinean President was revealed by a high ranking source in the delegation now in Angola, who asked for the total disclosure of his/her identity. According to the source, President Obiang secretly has asked Angola to send troops to Equatorial Guinea in the end of this year or the beginning of 2006 "to maintain security in the country" during an expected upcoming unconstitutional succession in the presidency.
The upcoming abdication of the Dictator as Head of State is no secret among his closest friends and family members, but President Obiang is reported to be increasingly insecure about the impact such a move may have within the population, the armed forces and on the international scene. He now works to plan every possible scenario to satisfy his family, fearing reprisals in the case that powers are transferred to "intruding and unknown" citizens.
The Equatoguinean President is in a "discrete" agony. Due to his physical incapacity, President Obiang - who suffers from prostate cancer and other diseases not yet filtered to the press, although some speak of AIDS - plans to give up power to "fight against death" and live his remaining years in a certain tranquillity.
In contradiction with the 1991 constitution - which has references to the resignation, death or physical or mental incapacity of the President of the Republic - the Central African is fighting uphill to secure the enthronement of his first-born, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, as his "legitimate" successor. President Obiang himself took over after his uncle, whom he killed in a 1979 coup.
Not trusting even his own shadow, the Dictator lately has turned increasingly to the military aid from foreign countries, including Israel, who in these moments are training the presidential guards of the upcoming leader.
On a continental view, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Angola are seen as the principal strongholds for an unconstitutional succession in Equatorial Guinea. Nationals from these countries are already in the presidential guard, and Morocco has even had a well-known large military presence in the country since 1979, shortly after the palace revolution of the current leader. For the last three months, Israeli and Angolan troops have been observed training the presidential guard in the town of Mongomo, the birthplace of the President.
Angola is one of the countries that have shown most goodwill regarding offers from the Equatoguinean Dictator. Around 200 Angolan troops - some of them stemming from the former UNITA rebel group that became a political party in 2003 - are currently integrated in the presidential guard, figuring as the elite guard that is willing to make a bloodbath in the country if the foreseen succession fails.
President Obiang is the only President from a non-neighbour or non-Portuguese country to participate in Angola's commemoration of its 30th anniversary. During his visit, he aims at clarifying the situation of his family and the necessity to eliminate opponents to the succession.
In this sense, he plans to sign an "important" agreement regarding defence and security with President dos Santos, which is believed to enter into vigour in the first trimester of 2006. That is the same time President Obiang is expected to hand power over to his son Teodoro Nguema Obiang. The price of the operation is of no importance, given that he is the richest man in sub-Saharan Africa.
In July, sources close to the President warned that he was talking secretly about plans to reform the Equatoguinean constitution to introduce the title of a Vice-President - reserved for his first-born - who would be the only person constitutionally appointed to take over powers in the case of the President's resignation, death or incapacity.
Surprisingly, last weekend the national council of the ruling PDGE party was convened to the city of Bata in an "urgent and obligatory" matter, according to the state-controlled broadcaster. The issue of the meeting was never revealed. However, sources contacted by 'El Muni' have confirmed that President Obiang convened the top organ of his party to discuss the succession issue, but in the last hours before the meeting, he changed his mind and found it more "cautious and discrete" to travel to Angola first. The meeting was adjourned.
There are concerns that the succession may not be so smooth, given the family feuds in the circle around the President since it in 1999 was known that he suffers from prostate cancer - a disease that has not been lethal but has strained his capacity to be Head of State and Army Chief. Obliged to travel abroad twice monthly for medical revisions and surgical treatments, the Equatoguinean leader now more than ever sees the limits of his powers. According to a prestigious clinic in Geneva, the President at his last stay weighed less than 50 kg.
Many observers hold that the expected abduction of the President of the small oil-rich Central African state may lead the nation directly into a large and cruel civil war with an unknown outcome. Not even the closest allies of the Dictator are happy about his choice of a successor, the son being viewed as an extravagant youngster who is not in contact with reality. This opinion is shared by many family members.
The younger brother of the Dictator, General Armengol Ondó Nguema, is known as one of the opponents to have his nephew as the Republic's next President. With the opposition growing ever more impotent and the population sinking deeper into poverty and desperation, nobody rules out an armed response to the succession, or at least an international intervention.