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Equatorial Guinea Clamps Down on Foreigners - 2004-03-15

The government of Equatorial Guinea is clamping down on foreigners following the arrest last week of 15 foreigners who allegedly are mercenaries who were involved in a plot to overthrow the government.

Hundreds of Ghanaians and Cameroonians are being forced out of the tiny oil-rich nation of Equatorial Guinea, in the government's crackdown on foreigners.

The expulsions follow last week's arrest of 15 men who were allegedly involved in a plot to oust president Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The government of neighboring Ghana flew several dozen of its nationals out of Equatorial Guinea since Sunday and sent a navy ship to collect more.

Close to 500 Cameroonians have been returned home by ship over the past week. Some of them staged a demonstration on Sunday at the consulate for Equatorial Guinea in the business capital, Douala.

A Western diplomat in the region said Cameroon and the former Spanish colony have had friendly relations up to now and that some of the Cameroonians have owned property in Equatorial Guinea for more than 10 years.

The diplomat also said that an estimated 250 people are camped out at the Cameroonian consulate in Malabo unable to leave the compound because it is surrounded by security officers.

Many Ghanaians and Cameroonians who were forced out complained of rough treatment by Equatorial Guinea.

The discovery of oil in Equatorial Guinea in the 1990s has attracted thousands of foreigners into the country

Equatorial Guinea has arrested 15 men, claiming they were part of an international plot to topple the government. Another 70 alleged mercenaries were arrested by the Zimbabwe government on suspicious they, too, were involved in the plot.