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Vol 45 No 24

Published 3rd December 2004

Equatorial Guinea

Under the volcanoes

The greatest threat to President Obiang's personal rule comes from within - not from foreign plotters

Politics in Malabo, like the three volcanoes surrounding the capital city, are bound to erupt some time. If anything, the government's bizarre handling of the purported mercenaries' coup in March has hastened that political eruption. Paranoia among the Mongomo clan around President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has reached new heights since the saga started, so much so that many see the hallmarks of an elaborate set-up in the coup allegations and the cast of exotic characters drawn into the subsequent court battles in Malabo, Harare, Cape Town, Beirut, London, Guernsey and perhaps Madrid. The real game is the battle to succeed President Obiang: as the country's oil revenues boom (forecast to grow at nearly 20 per cent next year) and clan rivalries deepen, the stakes are rising. Coup plots - phantom or real, internal or external - are all played out against this central question. Certainly the matter of the March plot will not end with the verdicts and sentences given out in a Malabo court on 26 November against 19 alleged plotters. After a trial which, according to Amnesty International, flagrantly breached international standards of justice, Judge Salvador Ondo Nkumu handed down sentences of between 14 to 34 years for the Armenian and South African defendants, while the five Equato-Guinean defendants were either released or given lighter sentences.

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