Equatorial Guinea says it thwarted ‘coup’

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


Can Macron’s White House visit save the Iran deal?

Updated 22 April 2018
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Can Macron’s White House visit save the Iran deal?

  • Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether talks with Paris, Berlin and London on tougher anti-Iran measures have advanced far enough
  • Iran has said the deal is final and warned it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program

WASHINGTON: French President Emmanuel Macron seems, as much as any world leader, to have developed some kind of rapport with his American counterpart Donald Trump.
But will their apparent bond prove productive as European capitals struggle to save the Iran nuclear deal from Trump’s impulsive wrath?
The idea will be tested Monday when the young French leader begins a state visit in Washington, and European diplomats have a lot invested in what seems a tricky task.
There is not much time. Trump is due to decide by May 12 whether talks with Paris, Berlin and London on tougher anti-Iran measures have advanced far enough.
If he feels the “flaws” in the 2015 deal have not been adequately repaired, he may decide to withdraw his support, opening the way for renewed US sanctions that could torpedo the whole accord.
Europe would see this as a disaster, both in terms of the deal itself — a central plank in their non-proliferation strategy — and in terms of relations with Washington.
If anyone can talk down Trump, it might be Macron, who has better relations with the White House than his British and German counterparts Theresa May and Angela Merkel.
Paris was the first European ally to suggest tougher measures against Iran’s ballistic missile programs to “supplement” the nuclear deal — but will that suffice?
Trump also wants to reform the agreement itself to end the so-called “sunset clauses” that would allow Iran to progressively restart parts of its nuclear program after 2025.
But the West cannot unilaterally reopen the text.
Iran has said the deal is final and warned it is ready to relaunch its nuclear program — which the West alleges is designed to produce an atomic bomb — if it fails.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in New York on Saturday that Iran is not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, but that its “probable” response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium — a key bomb-making ingredient.
In addition, the agreement was the fruit of months of intense diplomacy between Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — under EU auspices.
Only Trump wants to rip it up.
“It’s a dialogue of the deaf,” complained one European envoy. A US diplomat acknowledged that getting Trump to buy in will be the “trickiest” part of the problem.
British, French and German representatives have been in deep talks with the US State Department’s head of policy Brian Hook on what a supplemental deal would look like.


But the representatives complain privately that, despite progress with their American counterparts, they have no idea whether they are close to an agreement that the mercurial president would accept.
To appease Trump, European capitals are working on a document that would amount to a political engagement to prevent Iran from returning to the nuclear path after the 2015 deal starts to expire.
The Europeans could even call such a statement a new “deal,” if it convinces the US leader to stay within the terms of the original and “true” agreement.
Therein lies the rub.
“He hates the deal,” another European diplomat acknowledged.
All Hook can say is that once he comes to terms with his European partners, it will be up to Trump, in consultations with his hard-line new National Security Adviser John Bolton, to decide.
“If we can reach an agreement, then that will be presented to the president by the secretary of state and the NSA, and then he will make a decision on whether he wants to remain in the deal or stop waiving sanctions,” Hook said.
“We always have to prepare for any eventuality, and so we are engaged in contingency planning because it would not be responsible not to engage in it.”
The appointment of Bolton, an avowed Iran hawk, fueled Europe’s pessimism, as did the nomination of CIA director Mike Pompeo to become the next US secretary of state.
But Pompeo, who has always talked tough on Iran, played down the significance of the May 12 deadline in his Senate confirmation hearing.
“I want to fix this deal. That’s the objective,” he told US lawmakers concerned that he might push for war.
“If there is no chance to fix it, I’ll recommend to the president we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and better deal. Even after May 12th, even after May 12th, there’s still much diplomatic work to be done.”
As the deadline looms, even some of the more hawkish Washington pundits — critics of the deal when it was signed — have begun to suggest that the return of US nuclear-related sanctions could be postponed until a new fixed date.
But if all the talk fails and Trump follows his clear inclination to tear up the “terrible deal,” there appears to be no Plan B, at least from Europe.
“Anyone who wants to blow up the Iran deal has first to tell us what he will do if Iran relaunches its uranium enrichment program,” France’s ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud tweeted in exasperation.
After Macron’s visit, there is only one from Merkel, whose chemistry with the US leader appears more toxic than productive, and then the ball in Trump’s hands.