Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Only this month, Britain’s Simon Mann won a pardon for his part in a foiled 2004 coup attempt on Equatorial Guinea, an old-style adventure whose glittering prize was the central African state’s multi-billion-dollar oil riches.
Contrast that to reports last week that a band of South African and other mercenaries had flown into the chaos of Guinea to train up a militia loyal to the incumbent junta leader — on a salary put at barely $3,500 a month.
That’s not bad money in most parts of the world, and there were reports that the company involved would have won extra remuneration in the form of minerals from Guinea’s fecund soil.
In a worst case scenario, tanks in Antananarivo could lead to battles between the police and the presidential guard — who remain loyal to President Marc Ravalomanana — against mutinous troops and members of the military police.
Eton-educated British mercenary Simon Mann has gone on trial in Equatorial Guinea for his role in a 2004 coup plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
The state prosecutor is seeking a jail term of nearly 32 years for Mann, who has admitted in a British TV interview this year that he plotted to topple Obiang.
Mann’s defence lawyer has argued that his client was a “mere instrument” in the plot, but not one of the main organisers. The prosecution has named Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as one of the businessmen conspirators who invested in the coup plot. Mark Thatcher denies knowing about the coup and is not on trial in Malabo.
So, with Mann’s trial and the death of notorious French mercenary Bob Denard last year, is the era of the “dogs of war” over in Africa? Or will Equatorial Guinea’s huge oil riches soon tempt others to hire foreign guns for a violent takeover of power?
Is justice being done in the case of Mann, or should others be with him there in the dock?
The rule of President Obiang, who overthrew his dictatorial uncle Francisco Macias Nguema in a 1979 coup, has been sharply criticised by international human rights groups who accuse him of abuses and restricting political freedoms. Some might argue that a “regime change” such as the one plotted by Mann might have been good for Equatorial Guinea. What do you think?