Friday, September 22, 2006

What century is this again?

On the way to work this morning I caught a segment on NPR about a book being published that documents an attempted coup ( in 2004) in a small African country. The story was sketched out in broad impressions, and lasted only a few minutes. It struck me as being reminiscent of a history of Western colonialism that seemed a thing of the past. But think again. It is the postcolonial period, but that doesn't mean western powers have given up in their attempts to control nations. Intrigued, I spent some time doing some research on the internet.

Equatorial Guinea (E.G.) is the Africa's third largest oil-producing country, and its leaders are growing wealthy off of the proceeds. Although the government is supposed to function as a multi-party democracy, it is indeed run with a dictatorial spirit. Torture, arbitrary detention, restrictions on speech and assembly have been reported. The wealth from the emerging oil industry does not seem to be trickling down to the impoverished people in the nation of 500,000. This situation must have seemed ripe for exploitation by a group of South African mercenaries who planned to enter the country, overthrow its government by force and assassinate current president President Teodoro Obiang Nguema M'basogo (known to his subjects as "God").

The plan was foiled before it could be implemented. The government of Zimbabwe apprehended the group and impounded their airplane when it landed in that country. The 64 mercenaries aboard were arrested. Fifteen additional men were arrested in E.G., and charged with being the previous group's advance party. President Obiang promptly accused an expatriate opposition party leader, Severo Moto, of being involved in the plot.

Interestingly, Sir Mark Thatcher (former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's son) subsequently pleaded guilty to bankrolling the coup atempt. It has been suggested that he helped finance the plot in order to access some of the country's oil wealth. Moto had allegedly promised Thatcher and coup leader Simon Mann oil rights and a lump sum of cash if they were able to install him as the new leader of E. G. Evidently Thatcher bought the plane that flew the plotters to their mission launch , in the neighboring country of Zimbabwe.

Before we condemn the nasty mercenaries for picking on the little country and its beleagured leaders, the current oil situation should be noted. Somehow BGplc (a British oil company) had manuevered to buy a large amount of oil from E. G. for a moderate price over a period of several years. They did so in speculation that the price of oil would rise dramatically, and they stand to reap windfall profits. Marathon Oil, a Houston-based company, also benefits greatly from contracts worked out directly with President Obiang and other government officials, who seem to have gottten paid personally as a result. With bribes going directly into the pockets of their corrupted leaders, the people themselves are seeing very little percentage of the profits from their most precious resource.



Blogger John Morris said...

Baby, you ain't seen nothing yet. The hungry new empire builder is China, which is extendig arms all over the world in search of resources.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

China seems to be making a lot of progress in acquiring the coal resources of the United States. "God Bless the Free Market"!

6:34 PM  

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