Sunday, November 19, 2006

Testicle-Eating Dictators, British Aristocrats, American Oil Interests ... and Spain

There was a bit of a stir this week in Spain when the president of Equatorial Guinea (a former Spanish colony), Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo visited Madrid on official state business. Walking around the center of Madrid, yesterday, I ran into a group of African men protesting Obiang's rule, asking for signatures and such. It turns out that Obiang's Equatorial Guinea is perhaps, as Economist writer Adam Roberts put it, the most wretched place on earth. Despite having the third highest oil reserves in Africa -- which, if distributed amongst the tiny population would result in a per capita GDP of $50,000, the highest in the world -- it is one of the poorest countries in Africa. How so? The answer is depressingly predictable. Obiang himself is estimated to have assets worth around $600,000,000. His son, meanwhile, just bought a $35,000,000 mansion in Malibu. That Obiang has been accused of cannibalism (see below) only adds insult to injury.

As all this news has surfaced with Obiang's trip to Spain, I came across this newly published book review in LRB on a story I had forgotten: Mark Thatcher (Maggie's son) and company's 2004 coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea. From the review, it seems like it's a hell of a story, perhaps worth reading in its full book-form. It's not everyday that testicle-eating dictators, British aristocrats, and American oil interests find themselves in the same tail of a failed coup attempt. Here's one snippet from the review:
When Obiang Nguema, Macias’s nephew, seized power from his uncle (whom he killed) in 1979 things improved only slightly. Opposition leaders tend to die behind bars; torture is commonplace; Obiang is reported to eat the brains and testicles of those he particularly dislikes; and members of his family as well as some of the country’s diplomats have been accused of large-scale drug-running. With the country now Africa’s third largest oil producer, Obiang and his family are fabulously rich, while the small population languishes in unchanging poverty. By the same token Obiang became increasingly vulnerable to anyone with notions of mounting a coup, an idea that came to Simon Mann as a result of his long association with Tony Buckingham’s Executive Outcomes in Angola. There mercenary success earned huge financial rewards: Buckingham walked away from that adventure worth some $150 million in oil and diamonds. Mann, an Old Etonian scion of the brewing family, seems to have hatched his plot after consultation with the Lebanese tycoon Ely Calil, who was already helping to fund Obiang’s chief rival, the opposition leader Severo Moto.
I'm not going to try to throw myself into the mix of foreign policy vis-a-vis African dictatorship, but I do hope that our government is thinking of some way to handle the transition when Obiang -- like Mugabe and Castro -- dies intelligently. Perhaps we could send as an emissary the rapper Eve, who had a relationship with Obiang's son before she got word of daddy's dirty little secret.


Blogger The Sheriff said...

"It's not everyday that testicle-eating dictators, British aristocrats, and American oil interests find themselves in the same tail of a failed coup attempt."

I bet you this has happened at least 5 times, with some permutations.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

This is definitely one of the most interesting items I've seen in a while. I like how Eve was won over to Cannibal Junior by his "luxury gifts." Surely there was some gift he could have found that would make up for the fact that his dad eats balls.

If you're looking for more "this can't possibly happen in the modern age" type stuff, I heartily recommend this piece on the United Arab Emirates by Planet of Slums author Mike Davis:

Also, quick African dictator story:

I was at the campus pub with some classics people last night, and we spoke with a guy from the English dept. I spoke approvingly of his Chuck Taylors. He mentioned that he was from Canada, and that there was a famous Canadian philosopher named Charles Taylor who famously wears Chuck Taylors. I then blurted out, "Yeah, and there's an African dictator named Charles Taylor!" "Oh,, what country?" (I suppose this was the only question you could ask to respond to my Aspergers'-like insistence on bringing up African dictators.) And alas, I did not know off the top of my head! Now, I will never forget- Liberia. The whole world will soon know about the multiplicity of Charles Taylors in the world.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Robot said...

The Eve thing I tacked on at the end just for fun, but it might be the most absurd thing in the whole post: never mind that her boyfriend rolls in money at the expense of a starving population; never mind that his father gained power through a bloody coup; no no no, it's his father's testicle-eating, you see, that really persuaded her.

9:58 AM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

That Mike Davis piece is really good, by the way, I had the opportunity to cite it and the Wang Hui article in the same presentation. NLR BOOYA

6:49 PM  

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