News / Africa

Critics: Impact of Equatorial Guinea Vote Unclear

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, center, July 1, 2011.
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, center, July 1, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Nick Loomis

Officials in Equatorial Guinea say voters overwhelmingly backed a constitutional referendum this week that limits presidents to two terms in office.

But the new law may not apply to the country's current leader of three decades, President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo, Africa's longest serving head of state who, critics say, may now move to strengthen his family's hold on the oil-rich nation.

According to Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the president's son and minister of agriculture and forestry who was elected national director of a campaign backing the referendum, the constitutional reforms will “improve the country's representation within a democratic framework” by introducing presidential term limits, creating a bicameral legislature, and improving both human rights and the judiciary.

Some observers say it is not clear how these changes, which government officials say passed with 97 percent of the vote, will impact President Obiang's tenure.

"On the surface, the constitutional reforms don't look so bad," says Joseph Kraus of the U.S.-based non-profit Equatorial Guinea Justice. "The problem is when you get into the details of the actual reforms, and the details were never fully disclosed to the public."

The new constitution removes a maximum age limit for the president, allowing the 69-year-old Obiang, currently serving his fourth seven-year term since taking power in a 1979 coup, to run again after he turns 75. It also creates the post of vice president, which many people believe will go to his son, the 41-year-old government official who was recently appointed Equatorial Guinea's new deputy ambassador to the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO.

Son under investigation

Nguema Obiang Mangue is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is attempting to seize more than $70 million in assets including property and luxury vehicles in California. The Obama Administration says the purchases are “inconsistent” with Mangue's annual salary of about $80,000 as agriculture minister, and are the result of "extortion, misappropriation, embezzlement, or theft of public funds" in sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer.

Government officials in Equatorial Guinea say Mangue's purchases involve no wrongdoing.

But Kraus says Mangue's well-known spending habits raise questions about the country's future and his fitness to lead. In a country where the African Development Bank says more than 70 percent of people live in poverty, Kraus says international pressure might make a difference.

"The government inside Equatorial Guinea does seem to be sensitive to its international image," he says. "It's gone to great lengths in the past couple of years to improve its international image. And so that presents an entry point or some leverage to try to push the government of Equatorial Guinea to actually spend more of the country's wealth on improving the lives of ordinary citizens."

Sunday's polling procedures questioned

Equatorial Guinea's single opposition member of parliament pulled his party's observers out of polling stations during the constitutional referendum Sunday because of what he says was the government's manipulation of the outcome.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says some polling places did not even have ballots available to register a "no" vote. Voters, observers and opposition officials told the human rights groups they saw people encouraged to vote publicly as well as to cast ballots on behalf of absent relatives.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid