Equatorial Guinea says it thwarted ‘coup’

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest-serving leader.
Updated 03 January 2018
0

Equatorial Guinea says it thwarted ‘coup’

MALABO: Equatorial Guinea: The West African state of Equatorial Guinea said Wednesday it had thwarted “a coup” against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader, that had allegedly been mounted by foreign mercenaries recruited by his political opponents.
Sources told AFP that the country’s ambassador to Chad had been arrested and was being held in a military camp.
In a statement read on public radio, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said an attempted coup took place on Dec. 24.
“A group of Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans [citizens of the Central African Republic] infiltrated Kye Ossi, Ebibeyin, Mongomo, Bata and Malabo to attack the head of state, who was in the Koete Mongomo presidential palace for the year-end holiday,” he said.
The “mercenaries... were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers,” the minister said.
The plot had been prevented thanks to an operation carried out “in collaboration with the Cameroon security services,” he said.
Formerly a Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.
Obiang, in power for more than 38 years, is accused by critics of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.
Wednesday’s announcement came after Cameroon on Dec. 27 arrested 38 heavily-armed men on the border with the tiny state.
Two days later, Equatorial Guinea’s ambassador to France, Miguel Oyono Ndong Mifumu, referred to the incident as an “invasion and destabilization attempt.”
The suspects, taken into custody in a bus on the border, had rocket launchers, rifles and a stockpile of ammunition, according to his office.
On Saturday, the 75-year-old Obiang said “a war” was being prepared against his regime, “because they say I have spent a lot of time in power.”
The same day, the country’s ambassador to Chad, Enrique Nsue Anguesom, was arrested in the district of Ebibeyin, on Equatorial Guinea’s border with Cameroon, one of his cousins and a senior police officer told AFP on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He is being held in a military camp in Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s economic capital, “in connection with the investigation concerning the arrests” on Dec. 27, said one of the sources.
Concurring sources said Equatorial Guinea’s borders with Gabon and Cameroon were closed on December 27. Other sources said military reinforcements had been sent to the fronter with Cameroon. Officials could not be reached to confirm these accounts.
Obiang took power in a coup on Aug. 3, 1979, ousting his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was shot by firing squad.
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.
Legislative elections on Nov. 12 last year saw the ruling party win 92 percent of the vote, a result condemned as fraudulent by dissidents.
The Citizens for Innovation (CI) opposition group, which secured one out of the 100 seats in the legislature, later reported that at least 50 of its members were detained after the ballot.
Its leader, Gabriel Nse Obiang, denied Wednesday that the CI had played any part in the attempted coup.
“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Nse Obiang said, reached by phone from the capital Malabo. “The authorities are unable to come up with any proof.”
“Is the real problem that we are a serious opposition party who does not want to play along with the regime?” he asked.
In 2004, mercenaries attempted to overthrow Obiang in a coup thought to be largely funded by British financiers.


Sudanese hit by bread shortages as currency crunch escalates

Updated 4 min 41 sec ago
0

Sudanese hit by bread shortages as currency crunch escalates

  • Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of its oil output
  • A doubling of the price of bread in January triggered demonstrations after the government eliminated subsidies

KHARTOUM: Bread shortages have hit Sudan, with wheat traders blaming a foreign currency crisis for shortages of the staple that have left people queuing for hours outside bakeries.
Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of its oil output and depriving it of a crucial source of foreign currency.
The crisis has deepened over the past year as a black market for US dollars has effectively replaced the formal banking system after the Sudanese pound was devalued, making it more difficult to import essential supplies such as wheat.
A doubling of the price of bread in January triggered demonstrations after the government eliminated subsidies, although so far there was no sign of protests this time.
At Banet neighborhood in the town of Omdurman, in Khartoum, dozens of people stood in a long line outside the Modern Bakery.
“This is unbearable,” said 53-year-old Abdullah Mahmoud, a day laborer, who said he had been queuing for two hours for bread. “I had been here since the morning and I still don’t have any bread.”
Fatima Yassin, 36, in a queue for women, said: “Everything is expensive and bread is not available. We have a difficult life and the government doesn’t care about us.”
Similar queues were seen in other cities near the capital.
Sudan imported 2 million tons of wheat in 2017, the government said in December, compared with 445,000 tons produced locally.
One Khartoum bakery owner, Ahmed Saleh, said he had had no flour since Monday.
“We stopped working since yesterday because we did not get our share of flour,” he told Reuters.
Any flare-up over shortages could prove tricky for the government. In January, authorities arrested a prominent opposition leader and confiscated newspapers to try to stop unrest from spreading.
Only last week, Sudan’s ruling party announced that it would back any new bid by President Omar Al-Bashir, to run again in the 2020 election, a move that would require a constitutional amendment.
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the crisis.
But the Khartoum state governor, Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussein, said in remarks carried by state news agency SUNA on Monday that the state would receive its share of wheat supplies in the “next couple of days,” without elaborating.
Private sector wheat traders, who were given responsibility for imports by the government at the start of this year, blamed the flour shortages on the foreign currency shortages.
One trader said that businessmen were increasingly being forced to buy foreign currency at a higher rate on the black market to finance imports.
“At the same time, the government sets the sale price for flour at an unreal dollar rate,” one trader told Reuters. “We cannot sell flour at a loss,” he added.
The price of the Sudanese pound had been declining since the beginning of the year after the government devalued the currency to 18 per US dollar, more than double its peg of 6.7 pounds to the dollar.
The pound, which has since been devalued further and is now officially set at 29 pounds to the dollar, was trading at 40 pounds to the dollar on the black market on Tuesday.