Standing up for E.G.: We just need some more time

Anatolio Ndong Mba, Ambassador to the United Nations for Equatorial Guinea, recently wrote a letter to The New York Times in response to a critical article in the May 31st edition of the paper. Here’s his letter:

To the Editor:

An Iron Grip in Africa, With Ties to the U.S.” (Malabo Journal, May 31) presents an unrealistic and outdated image of Equatorial Guinea, a country that is struggling vigorously to become more free, to modernize itself and to provide a better standard of living for its citizens.

In fact, developing our human capital, creating economic opportunities and improving living conditions are among our greatest challenges and our highest priorities as part of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s ambitious Horizon 2020 program.

We also face the challenge of making our system of government and our security forces more open, accountable and corruption-free. Our president has pushed for reform of the legal system, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has opened an office in the country to monitor our progress.

Your article cited an incident of torture that occurred in 1992 to reflect the reality of Equatorial Guinea today. It also repeats the canard that 77 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Unfortunately, one of the current problems of Equatorial Guinea is that we still lack updated statistics in some fields, and there are no updated statistics on income distribution for any entity to cite. Many groups insist on repeating this false statistic, but none of them have cited a genuine source.

We have set a course to develop our human capital and our infrastructure. The pace of change may not be as fast as anyone wants, including us, but I challenge the world to watch as this country develops into a place where people enjoy the fruits of our petroleum riches without being robbed of their incentive to produce and to control their destinies.

I won’t make any comments about the Times article or the letter, but I will note the “give us some more time” phenomenon.

Apparently, more than 30 years in power has not been long enough for Obiang to bring about the kind of change that Equatorial Guinea needs. The ambassador points to the ambitious “Horizon 2020 program.”  This is quite similar to neighbor Paul Biya’s discourse. Biya pledges that Cameroon will be an emerging economy by 2035, part of his “Vision” report (“Cameroun Vision 2035“). It seems that 29 years in power has not been long enough for him, either. He needs at least another term (and 24 more years) to get the country back on track.

Critics have pointed out that Cameroon could already be a middle income economy if it weren’t for decades of mismanagement and corruption. Of course, there’s blame to go around. IMF policies, the pernicious effects of Françafrique, the ravages of globalization, the global financial crisis and recession — all have had a negative impact on Cameroon. And we can’t dismiss the possible benefits of Horizon and Vision reports. They  are important roadmaps, which citizens and civil society can (hopefully) use to hold their governments accountable.

But the cynicism of people like Obiang and Biya is incredible. No mistakes. No responsibility. No accountability. Decades in power with precious little to show for it (beyond their own wealth, that is), and they tell their people they just need some more time.

The U.S. government seems to agree, and U.S. oil companies are happily doing business.





One Response to “Standing up for E.G.: We just need some more time”

  1. Mark says:

    You cannot ignore the fact that the discovery of oil is like the rebirth of Equatorial Guinea and other African nations in similar situations. The Western countries who ruled this and other regions not so many years ago still have massive interests there and the fact that the NYT has published so many false information in an article (I went to the World Bank website to check what was cited in the Times article and the data proved that the Ambassador is right and the NYT falsely quoting data from the Bank.

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