Equatorial Guinea has closed its embassy in the UK to protest sanctions on Teodorin Obiang, vice president and son of long-serving president Teodoro Obiang. Teodorin’s assets in London will be frozen and he will not be able to enter the UK.
Announcing the closure of the mission, Equatorial Guinea’s Foreign minister called London’s actions “interference in the internal affairs of Guinea and a breach of international law”. The UK is the latest country to take action against Teodorin. In 2017, a French court ordered seizure of his assets, an action soon followed by the United States and Switzerland.
Teodorin has lived an extravagant life. He has splashed $500 million to acquire mansions around the world, luxury cars, and Michael Jackson’s memorabilia. He owns tens of luxury cars, private jets, and yachts. A jet-setting playboy, Teodorin parties in the most exclusive clubs around the world, and vacations in luxury resorts. He has a predilection for American and European women celebrities, and is seen cavorting with them at exclusive locations.
Teodorin is a chip off the old block. His father, Teodoro Obiang, is one of the world’s richest heads of state. He uses the country’s treasury as his personal bank. He runs Guinea like a family fiefdom, staffing ministries with members of his family. Teodorin was once Agriculture minister before being appointed vice president. Like the late Robert Mugabe grooming his wife Grace to take over from him, Teodoro is grooming his son to succeed him. Yes, despite fine speeches about democracy at the African Union and United Nations, African leaders nurture dynastic ambitions.
It is interesting that Guinean Foreign minister should use the exact language used by the AU’s predecessor organisation when Tanzania invaded Uganda. President Julius Nyerere was condemned for violating the Organisation of African Unity policy of not interfering with the internal affairs of member states. Never mind that Idi Amin had been killing and torturing Ugandans in their thousands. In the OAU’s warped logic, it was okay for Amin to kill Ugandans, but an irredeemable crime for Tanzania to seek to oust the blood thirsty tyrant.
The AU has proudly continued in the warped tradition of its predecessor organisation. In 2011, it made Teodoro Obiang its chairman despite evidence that he used his country’s treasury as his personal bank account. It did not matter to the AU that Obiang had committed gross human rights abuses including murder of opponents, and that through naked avarice, he had impoverished an oil-rich country. Now as chairman, Obiang represented Africa’s interests on the world stage. Sometimes the things we Africans do beggar belief.
But it’s not just Africans who revel in these absurdities. Teodoro Obiang has been received in several foreign countries including Obama’s White House. The world knows that his rapacious tyranny has impoverished Equatorial Guinea, yet they listen politely as he talks about development and human rights. Why then does the world feign concern when Guineans take rickety boats across the Mediterranean, as many of them do?
Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator