African Union Summit hears call to review relationship with the west
GIN — At a summit June 20-27 of African heads of state, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea strongly rebuked western countries for “interfering” in Africa, and urged leaders to end economic dependence on the West.
Teodoro Obiang Nguema, hosting a two-day summit of the 54-nation African Union, said a post-colonial relationship of unequals was holding back the continent from sustainable development.
The 72-year-old president is Africa’s longest serving head of state after overthrowing his uncle in a 1979 coup. The country has seen an economic boom since offshore oil was discovered in the mid-1990s.
With a population of less than 800,000 people, the former Spanish colony is Africa’s third greatest energy producer behind Nigeria and Angola. Oil companies including ExxonMobil and Marathon Oil are working there.
While Equatorial Guinea boasts a GDP per capita on par with Saudi Arabia and higher than Portugal, international aid agencies and rights groups point to a wide wealth gap between the ruling elite and the country’s poor majority.
Towering new offices and residential blocks — often built by Chinese or Arab construction firms — are springing up around the verdant island capital Malabo, though many citizens still live in tin-roofed homes.
Critics of the government in the diaspora took the opportunity of the summit to urge global leaders to press Pres. Obiang on the country’s human rights record.
Tutu Alicante, an Equatoguinean lawyer who heads EG Justice from exile in the U.S., cited the current government’s “misrule.” The visiting leaders, he said, should urge Pres. Obiang “to stop targeting activists and others who speak out against him.”
Meanwhile, with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy looking on, Obiang criticized the pricing of natural resources and the “barriers to international trade” as examples of Western domination of Africa.
He also criticized the exchange rate of the CFA franc used by 14 countries in West and Central Africa, including Equatorial Guinea, as being fixed too low against the euro.
“Africa is engaged in a process of democratic progress that is irreversible and adjusted to African realities, and it should not allow foreign meddling,” he said.
To applause from fellow heads of state, Obiang called for an overhaul of the United Nations system “so that it no longer serves as a support for some countries to legalize their agenda of meddling.”
He also criticized the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for facilitating “the monopolies of the world economy.”
The summit was intended to focus on agriculture investment and reducing the incidence of hunger across Africa. Pledges to spend 10 percent of national budgets on agriculture have not been met since the commitment was made in 2003. As a whole, the continent barely surpassed four percent each year with the exception of Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal.