Equatorial Guinea claims it foiled coup, mercenary invasion

Equatorial Guinean authorities said they have foiled a coup plot against long-serving President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on the tail of clashes with alleged mercenaries near the border with Cameroon.

Government troops said they killed a “mercenary” and “used gunfire to disperse” other mercenaries in the forests along the border”, state television TVGE said, without specifying how many “mercenaries” were involved or how long the clashes lasted.

Reports of the shooting came after Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said in a statement on public radio that an attempted coup had been mounted on December 24, allegedly by foreign mercenaries recruited by political opponents.

“A group of Chadian, Sudanese and Central Africans infiltrated Kye Ossi, Ebibeyin, Mongomo, Bata and Malabo to attack the head of state, who was in the Koete Mongomo presidential palace for the year-end holiday,” he said.

The “mercenaries… were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers”, the minister said.

The attempted infiltration had been repelled “in collaboration with the Cameroon security services”, he said.

Sources told AFP that the country’s ambassador to Chad had been arrested and was being held in a military camp.

Formerly a Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.

Obiang, in power for more than 38 years, is accused by critics of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.

Obiang took power in a coup on August 3, 1979, ousting his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was shot by firing squad.

He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90 percent of the vote, according to the official results.