Faulty Diplomacy Or Shameless Begging

By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 2, 2007


I have been grappling with President Sirleaf’s recent visit to Equatorial Guinea. My mind has been tossed and turned every which way in an attempt to reconcile this move with CBS’ 60 Minutes clip on this small oil-rich, yet impoverished country off the coast of West Africa.

In this CBS broadcast, President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea was introduced as a despot who has kept his country massively poor despite a high national revenue intake, mainly from petrodollars, revenues enough to make each of the six hundred thousand of the populace a millionaire. Instead, Obiang is reported as having hundreds of millions USD stashed in personal bank accounts offshore.

The CBS camera followed Obiang’s son in Paris, chauffeured in a “Lamborghini”, on a lavish shopping spree. One would think it was “dokafle” this young man was buying - thirty plus Italian style suits at a whop! Don’t even start counting the dress shirts and neckties to go with the suits; you are bound to lose count. The camera also took us on location in Equatorial Guinea, counting the number of châteaux (you know they are French people) of the Obiang family, amid sun beaten zinc shacks in a squalor filled countryside. Not surprised, but we will always ask, ’Why‘?

So, what was our president doing over there with such a huge entourage? We have been following President Sirleaf’s globe trot, basket in hand, in the name of reconstruction efforts for our country. We applaud that. We only hope that this stopover was not in connection to that. Obiang could definitely use some words of wisdom from our president. We sincerely hope that’s what the meetings were about behind closed doors.

On the other hand, if the meetings were about money, it won’t sit too well with some of us. We know heard of “blood diamonds”. “Snake oil”! Yes, that’s the only name suitable for any money that passes through the hands of Obiang. No, Madam President. We may be desperate, but snake oil is sure to soil what little pride we have left. In biblical terms, let’s not gain at a loss of our national soul. It is a shivery thought, indeed.

Our local papers summarized the outcome of meetings between the two president’s as one pledging bi-lateral trade relations, regional security, and an expression of a mutual abhorrence for coup d’etats. We all know that the coup d’etat thing is coming from the last time when mercenaries missed Obiang. We also know that, in the absence of democratic rule engendered by despotic rule of the non-benevolent kind, a coup d’etat is going to be on the people’s table, all the time. The sun rises over West Africa every morning. A true statement!

In Liberia today, it can cautiously be said that we, at least, have the ballot box as a resort to effect a change of government. Let no one tell us that the same can be said for the people of Equatorial Guinea. So, the bottom half of that mutual pledge between the presidents can be made good if, and only if, President Obiang has the guts, or has been advised, to open a new chapter on how he has ruled the people of Equatorial Guinea thus far.

As we in Liberia strive to become a “poster child” of countries recovering from civil wars, as we are being courted to become a “ beacon of hope for Africa“, we dare not plot asterisks conveying negative footnotes to our endeavors. Therefore, as a result of this ill-advised stopover in Equatorial Guinea, if we got “thirty pieces of silver” from Obiang, it is an outright betrayal of our impoverished brothers and sisters in that country. We would need to throw out such ill-gotten gain.

© 2007 by The Perspective
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