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Monday, November 29, 2004

Equatorial Guinea Watch: It's The Oil, Stupid

Several years ago, I attempted to obtain a visa to Equatorial Guinea while visiting the Nigerian port city, Calabar. Equatorial Guinea is the smallest and least populated nation in West Africa, and its unique geography and cultural history fascinated me. The capitol of Equatorial Guinea, Bioko, is situated on a volcanic island shrouded in mist with black sand beaches and a few surviving virgin rainforests. It's of particular interest to botanists and zoologists because its isolation has created unique ecological niches unknown elsewhere in the world. Equatorial Guinea is also a singular nation in the sense that it is the only former Spanish colony in West Africa, and in 1996, massive oil reserves were fond offshore. The Lonely Planet guidebooks have very little to say about E.G., and in my wildest daydreams, I imagined myself venturing into the unknown like Conrad's intrepid protagonist, Marlow. Prior to obtaining my visa, I was mugged and beaten up by a Nigerian gang after exchanging currency. The horror. Needless to say, I never made the trip.

Equatorial Guinea has been in the news quite a bit lately, and with good reason. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been documenting human rights abuses in E.G. for years, but it's only recently have western nations taken notice. Why, you may ask, does the western world suddenly care about the actions of a petty African dictator? Those willing to frame the question within the context of American and British military campaigns can use Occam's razor to arrive at the most logical conclusion: It's the oil, stupid.

The Times of London has been covering the story of an attempted coup led by the infamous South African mercenary Nick du Toit. The E.G. government is currently trying to extradite Sir Dennis Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

Equatorial Guinea alleges that Sir Mark and other British financiers commissioned the bid to overthrow the 25-year-old regime of President Teodoro Obiang and install Mr Moto (the opposition party leader) as the figurehead leader of Africa’s third largest oil producer.

Sir Mark separately faces charges in South Africa in connection with the alleged conspiracy.

Read the full article:

Recent documents leaked to the London Observer make it clear that both the U.S. and British government were, at the very least, aware of the plot and did nothing to stop it:

In December last year and January, two separate, highly detailed reports of the planned coup, from Johann Smith, a former commander in the South African Special Forces, were sent to two senior officers in British intelligence and to a senior colleague of Donald Rumsfeld, the US defense secretary, documents seen by The Observer say.

Read the full article:

Mark Thatcher knew, following the arrest of the coup plotters, that he would be implicated. As a result, it was time to flee South Africa. Where would a mercenary like Thatcher seek refuge from the law? Texas, of course, where he could count on his old friend George W. Bush and Triton energy, which has over 5 billion invested in E.G. oil exploration:
Read the full article:

My prediction is that we'll be hearing quite a bit about Equatorial Guinea in near future. 5% of America's oil comes from Equatorial Guinea, so an invasion to "liberate" the people of this impoverished nation can't be far off.
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