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.
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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid