On Saturday, August 3, 2019, Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema celebrated forty years in power, making him Africa’s longest-serving head of state.
Obiang’s 40th anniversary was marked by several events in three main cities, which are Bata (the economic capital), Mongomo (the president’s hometown) and Djibloho – a new city reportedly built with oil-money in the middle of the jungle.
Having seized control in a 1979 military coup, the 77-year-old leader has been described by rights groups as one of the continent’s most brutal and corrupt dictators. Amnesty International last month called on his government to take steps to “respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights of everyone in the country.”
Obiang, who is a survivor of multiple coup and assassination attempts, has cracked down ruthlessly on opponents and suspected plotters in the country. His most recent reelection in 2016 saw him win over 90 percent of the vote, an election which opposition groups said was highly flawed.
In December 2017, the government reported thwarting a coup allegedly planned by foreign exiles. Those convicted of being involved, over 130 people, were given sentences of up to 96 years in June this year.
More so, the biggest opposition group, the Citizens for Innovation (CI) party, was banned by authorities in February 2018. Subsequently, 21 CI members, including the party’s sole member of parliament, were sentenced to 30 years’ jail for “sedition, public disorder, attacks on authority and serious bodily harm.”
President Obiang is believed to be preparing his son, Teodorin, to succeed him as the leader of the former Spanish colony. Teodorin was promoted to the position of vice president in 2016 and is in charge of the country’s defense and security.
Last October, he was promoted from colonel directly to division general, without passing through the normal intermediary rank of brigade general. While the following month, he presided over a cabinet meeting for the first time.
Known for his lavish lifestyle, Teodorin received a three-year suspended jail term as well as a suspended fine of 30 million euros ($33.5 million, Sh3.35 billion) from a Paris court after being found guilty of siphoning off public money to buy assets in France. He was accused of spending more than 1,000 times his official annual salary on a six-story mansion in a luxurious part of the French capital, a fleet of fast cars and artworks, among other assets.
Earlier this year, 25 luxury cars were confiscated by Swiss prosecutors over charges of financial wrongdoing against Teodorin. However, the case was later dropped.
Under Obiang, Equatorial Guinea, which is one of the continent’s top petroleum producers, is regularly cited by NGOs as one of the most corrupt in the world. It ranks 141st out of 189 countries on the United Nation’s 2018 Human Development Index and 172nd out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.