Chad FM warns of regional ‘threat’ after E. Guinea coup bid

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90 percent of the vote according to the official results (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Chad FM warns of regional ‘threat’ after E. Guinea coup bid

MALABO: Chad’s Foreign Minister Mahamat Zen Cherif, in a visit to Equatorial Guinea after a bid to overthrow long-time President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, condemned the attempted coup as a “major threat” to central Africa.
“The attempt at destabilization is not just an affair that only concerns Equatorial Guinea, it is also a major threat of destabilization that concerns the entire sub-region of central Africa,” he said in remarks reported by state television TVGE.
On Wednesday, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said the authorities had thwarted an attempted coup, allegedly mounted on December 24 by foreign mercenaries recruited by political opponents.
Hours after his statement, TGVE reported clashes with “mercenaries” near the border with Cameroon.
Government troops shot dead one “mercenary” and “used gunfire to disperse (others) in the forests along the border,” it said, without specifying how many fighters were involved or how long the clashes lasted.
Formerly a small Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.
Obiang, 75, is Africa’s longest-serving leader, having seized power in 1979.
Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption. He has faced a string of coup attempts in his more-than 38-year tenure.
Cherif, who was cited by state media after he spoke with Obiang on Wednesday, called on “all countries in the sub-region to unite their efforts to deepen inquiries, not just to understand what happened here but also to establish the cause of this attempt at destabilization.”
He said he would go to Cameroon for talks with leaders there.
According to Wednesday’s statement, the mercenaries were Chadian, Sudanese and Centrafricans, as citizens of the Central African Republic are called.
“They 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,” it said.
The “mercenaries... were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers,” the minister said.
The attempted infiltration had been repelled with the help of the Cameroon security services, according to the authorities.
Sources told AFP that the country’s ambassador to Chad, Enrique Nsue Anguesom, who was on holiday in Equatorial Guinea’s Ebibeyin district, had been arrested and was being held in a military camp.
Cameroon says that on December 27 it arrested 38 heavily armed men on its border with Equatorial Guinea, which consists of mostly dense forest territory on the African mainland and an offshore island where the capital lies.
Cameroonian security sources on Thursday said those arrested included an ex-general in the Chadian army, Mahamat Kodo Bani, who was once a senior officer in the presidential guard.
He is being held in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, they said.
In Gabon, which also borders Equatorial Guinea, a senior government official said “security measures” had been taken on the border.
“We are working in coordination with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea,” the source said.
Facebook, Whatsapp and VPNs in Equatorial Guinea have been blocked. “There is a real lack of transparency on what’s really going on,” a diplomat in the region said.
Obiang took power in a coup on August 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 November 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 on Wednesday strongly denied it had played any part in the attempted coup.


Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

Updated 14 November 2018
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Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

  • An official named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep
  • Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year

SINGAPORE: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte skipped several meetings at an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore on Wednesday, prompting the 73-year-old’s office to issue a statement scotching speculation that it was due to ill health.
“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and wellbeing which have been the subject of speculation,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“The president’s constantly punishing work schedule is proof that he is in top physical shape.”
Panelo named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep, and said he would also skip a gala dinner with the leaders of nine Southeast Asian nations, US Vice President Mike Pence and several others.
Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year, and he has said openly that he is tired and would like to step down before the end of his term ends in 2022.
Last month Duterte’s office revealed that he had undergone a colonoscopy and he told reporters that a biopsy had shown he did not have cancer.
The constitution provides for the public to be told of the state of health of an incumbent president, if serious.
If a sitting president dies, is permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president succeeds to serve the remaining years in a six-year, single term.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a leader of the opposition, was elected separately in 2016. Speculation about Duterte’s health last month prompted concern that the Philippines could be headed for uncertainty given the highly polarized political climate.
Duterte has cited Robredo’s “incompetence” as a reason for his inability to quit as president.
Duterte has a record of skipping summit sessions, though he did not miss any as host when the Philippines held the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year.
Panelo said it was “amusing that some quarters are making a big fuss” of Duterte’s absences, noting that he had attended ASEAN meetings with leaders from China, Japan and Russia.
“Last night, the president worked late and had only less than three hours of sleep,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today was at 8:30a.m.”
Duterte is known for having an unorthodox working schedule that typically starts mid-afternoon and includes cabinet meetings that can go on beyond midnight.