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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid