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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora