Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea referendum to strengthen Obiang, opponents claim

AFP

Voting was underway Sunday on a new constitution for Equatorial Guinea - the introduction of a US-style presidential system, according to supporters of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a cover-up for corruption and nepotism, according to his opponents.

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About 300,000 of the oil-rich country’s 700,000-strong population are on electoral rolls but the campaign has not excited massive enthusiasm.

The constitutional changes include:

Limiting the president to two seven-year terms in office;
The creation of a vice-president’s post;
The creation of a Senate;
Setting up economic policy and auditing watchdogs;
Creating an ombudsman.

“This is a democratic advance,” Communications Minister Jeronimo Osa Osa Ecoro enthused on polling day. “We are going over to a presidential system as in the United States.”

But Equatorial Guinea’s small opposition dubbed the vote a “mascarade”. It aims to “ensure the dictatorship of Obiang and his family can impose a family succession”, according to the one opposition MP, Placido Mico.

Simon Mann talks to RFI

Obiang’s opponents claim that the changes will strengthen his hold on power and prepare the way for his 41-year-old son, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, known as Teodorin, to take over the vice-presidency and then the reins of power.

Teodorin was appointed deputy envoy to Unesco in October after the UN’s cultural arm suspended a 2.17-million euro science prize named after Obiang.

Paris police seized 11 luxury cars belonging to him in September in connection with an inquiry into property allegedly bought with the proceeds of corruption.

The US department of justice recently filed a bid to seize millions of dollars-worth of property, including three million dollars-worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, for the same reason.

President Obiang, has been reelected four times since seizing power in 1979 and currently chairs the African Union.

He has launched a charm offensive to clean up his regime’s image abroad, amid charges of massive corruption that has blossomed since the discovery of oil in the early 1990s.

Equatorial Guinea is sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest oil producer and was the target of a failed coup attempt by foreign mercenaries, including British former SAS officer Simon Mann.

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