And in other news…
The African Union, in its wisdom, has appointed Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang as its chairperson. The venerable members of the institution – i.e. 52 of Africa’s 53 officially recognised countries (Morocco declines to participate) – feel perhaps that the best way to honour what the people of Egypt and Tunisia have done and are doing is to appoint as leader a man who has spent even longer in office than Hosni Mubarak. Unlike Mubarak, however, Obiang still manages to keep his people effectively suppressed and under control – none of this flagrant disrespect for the person of the dictator is allowed to go on in Equatorial Guinea. And while Mubarak looks a beaten man, even as he clings onto his position, Obiang must be smirking as becomes Africa’s top diplomat. That’s how to do dictatorship.
You might not know much about Equatorial Guinea – few do. It’s a tiny country in Central West Africa, a former Spanish colony, and produces a lot of oil. It’s GDP per person of nearly $19,000 belies the fact that most of the cash goes straight into the pockets of Obiang and his cronies. It was in the news most recently in 2004, when it was the subject of a ridiculous coup attempt by a bunch of British and South African mercenaries, seemingly trying to emulate Frederick Forsyth’s classic coup novel The Dogs of War (which was itself inspired by a fail coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in the 1970s, supposedly). Mark Thatcher, the Iron Lady’s son, was implicated as a financier; and there were unsubstantiated rumours that another novelist, Jeffrey Archer, also contributed money.
Obiang’s appointment reveals the great flaws in the African Union; as a representative body, the institution will come to reflect its members; and as there are far too many African leaders with authoritarian tendencies, or skeletons to hide (corruption, human rights abuses, etc.), it is impossible to expect the AU to address those kinds of issues, or make sensible appointments. But hey, that’s democracy for you.
VERDICT: The African Union goes 4th.