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Convicted coup plotters in Equatorial Guinea handed jail terms

The heaviest sentences were handed down to three Equatorial Guinean nationals accused of masterminding the coup plot

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Convicts of coup bid in Equatorial Guinea handed jail terms

A court in Equatorial Guinea handed down sentences of up to 96 years to more than 130 people convicted of involvement in what the authorities say was an attempted coup.

The jail terms, ranging from three to 96 years, were read out on state television by Pascual Bacale Nfono, chief judge at the court in Bata, the country’s economic capital.

The convictions, announced late Friday, relate to what the government says was an attempted coup in December 2017.

Those convicted included foreign nationals from Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon and France, many of whom were tried in their absence.

The heaviest sentences, of 96 years, were handed down to three Equatorial Guinean nationals accused of being the masterminds of the coup plot.

They are: opposition figure Bienvenido Ndong Ondo (alias Ricky); and two former magistrates, Martin Obiang Ondo and Ruben Clemente Nguema Engonga.

All three exiled in Spain, they lead the Movement for the Liberation of Equatorial Guinea Third Republic (MLGE III R).

Defence lawyer Ponciano Mbomio Nvo said the sentences had been decided well in advance of the start of the proceedings. “This trial was just staged,” he told reporters.

Other exiled opposition figures living in Europe were also convicted in absentia. Salomon Abeso Ndong, who now lives in Britain, received a 59-year jail term.

The same term was handed down to opposition figure Severo Moto Nsa, who is now based in Spain.

He has already received a jail sentence of more than 100 years in a previous case, when he was convicted of having been behind a 2004 coup bid.

Mercenary plot

The authorities announced in January 2018 that they had foiled a coup plot.

They said a group of foreign mercenaries had planned to attack President Teodoro Obiang Nguema on December 24 at his palace at Koete Mongomo, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the borders with Gabon, Guinea and Cameroon.

Three days later, on December 27, Cameroonian police arrested around 30 armed men at their border with Equatorial Guinea.

At the same time, the authorities in Equatorial Guinea made a wave of arrests. They also issued international arrest warrants for suspects abroad whom they accused of being behind the coup bid.

More than half of those convicted are still abroad and were sentenced in their absence — including five French nationals.

One of the French defendants convicted was Dominique Calace de Ferluc, who is close to the opposition movement. He received a 59-year jail sentence.

The others convicted included people from Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Central African Republic and Cameroon.

The court acquitted 21 of the defendants and ordered their immediate release.

Former insiders among convicted

Among those in court for the trial was the country’s former ambassador to Chad, Enrique Nsue Anguesomo, who received a 50-year jail term.

The president’s former security chief, Julian Ondo Nkumu, received a 21-year sentence.

The trial began in March and two magistrates and two military prosecutors – named by presidential decree – joined the civilian judges in court.

During the trial, defence lawyers’ called for their clients’ release on the grounds of a lack of evidence and complained of procedural “irregularities” in the case.

Some of the defendants said in court that they had been tortured during their questioning.

Nguema, 76, is now Africa’s longest-serving leader having himself seized power in a 1979 putsch. 

Critics accuse him of brutal repression, election fraud and corruption.

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Journalists’ association condemns police threats in Somali

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people

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somalia journalists bash police

A Somali journalists’ association Sunday slammed the actions of police who it said threatened to shoot reporters trying to access the scene of a car bombing near parliament and warned of a “worsening situation” for the country’s press.

Police at a checkpoint near the site of Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu, which killed eight people and was claimed by the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, stopped a group of reporters from international newsgroups.

“When the journalists tried to explain to the police about their reporting mission, a police officer fired two bullets (in the) air and then pointed his rifle on Jama Nur’s head, according to Jama Nur Ahmed and two other colleagues,” the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said in a statement.

Also in the group were journalists from Reuters, AFP and Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, followed by a second wave of reporters who were similarly denied access.

“The journalists said the police officers told them they had orders restricting journalist coverage at the scenes of attacks and threatened that any journalist who tries to film will either be shot dead or his/her equipment will be broken resulting (in) the journalists to return back from the scene,” said the SJS.

It charged Somali police treat journalists “like criminals”, preventing them from doing their work of reporting on events in the country. “This is a symptom of a worsening situation against journalists in Somalia”.

It said that on May 14 police confiscated reporters’ equipment, detained a cameraman, and beat up two others trying to report on another Mogadishu explosion.  

AFP has documented several incidents in recent months of journalists being intimidated and threatened and their equipment seized while trying to report on Shabaab attacks.

The SJS called on the Ministry of Information, the commissioner of police and the office of the prime minister to open an investigation, “and take appropriate steps against those responsible.”

“We call the highest offices of the government including that of the Office of the Prime Minister to intervene in order to for the journalists to report freely and accurately without fear,” said the statement.

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DR Congo’s government move to reform the economy as Cobalt prices dip

DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars

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The Democratic Republic of Congo’s new leadership is under mounting pressure to diversify the country’s economy from its dependence on raw materials following the plunge in the price of cobalt. Economic experts currently visiting the country have a sobering figure on which to base their work: over the past year, the price of cobalt on the London Metal Exchange has tumbled from $80,000 to $28,000.

DR Congo is the world’s top producer of cobalt, a key component for rechargeable batteries needed for smartphones and electric cars. But economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country is on the same roller coaster as the global cobalt price.

“GDP growth increased to 5.8 per cent from 3.7 per cent in 2017, driven by a sharp increase in cobalt prices,” the International Monetary Fund said earlier this month in a report of DR Congo’s economy. “GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 4.3 per cent in 2019 based on the assumption of a slowdown in mining activity in the context of lower cobalt prices,” it added.

In another sign of DR Congo’s heavy reliance on mining and metals exports, that deceleration comes amid growth more than doubling in the rest of the economy thanks to public investment and post-election optimism. Either way, DR Congo’s GDP is small when compared to the size of the country and its population.

At less than $40 billion for 81 million inhabitants in 2017, according to World Bank figures, that translates into less than $2 per day per person on average. The IMF mission “focused on policies that would lead to diversifying the economy and tackling high levels of poverty and unemployment in the context of a rapidly expanding population,” according to the report.

Diversification and transformation of the nation’s economy is also the theme of the sixth French Kinshasa week organised by the Franco-Congolese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With 80 per cent of DR Congo’s export revenues generated by the mining sector, this “creates a vulnerability due to the volatility in the prices of its main raw material exports” noted the organisers.

Liberalisation amidst cobalt price dip

They said possibilities in numerous other sectors needed to be explored for growth opportunities: agriculture and food, textiles, tourism, communications, transportation services, forestry, energy, pharmaceuticals and recycling.

France is keen to promote an initiative recently unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron to provide 2.5 billion euros in financing to 100,000 African startups as well as small and medium-sized companies by 2022. But the best intentions in business development must confront the problems of doing business in a country still trying to fix its patchy tax revenue collection amidst corruption.

One economic analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “fifty per cent of the containers that enter the Matadi river port don’t pay customs duties”. The IMF urged the new president Felix Tshisekedi “to expedite the adoption of the proposed anti-corruption law” and the creation of an independent anti-corruption commission.

The IMF also expressed concern about low tax collection. Reforms in some areas are moving ahead, albeit slowly. The insurance sector has been liberalised with three operators licensed to take over from the former state monopoly Sonas. And mining multinationals will be meeting in Lubumbashi to discuss the plunge in cobalt prices and the impact last year’s reform of the mining code has had.

Mining expert Chantelle Kotze said the reform increased taxes and royalties paid on strategic minerals such as cobalt and coltan, an ore that is another crucial element for the production of electric car batteries.

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Africa’s top scorers ready to slug it out in Group B at the AFCON 2019

Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece

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Nigeria's AFCON 2019 squad

The sharpest shooters in 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying, Odion Ighalo of Nigeria and Fiston Abdul Razak of Burundi, will come face to face in Group B at the finals this month. While Ighalo and his Super Eagles team-mates are favoured to top the four-nation table and advance to the knockout stage in Egypt, Abdul Razak and the Swallows may struggle.   

Burundi are the lowest ranked of the 24 sides at the June 21-July 19 tournament and the best they can be expected to hope for is third place below Nigeria and Guinea and above Madagascar. The countries finishing first and second are guaranteed round-of-16 slots while the best four of the six third-placed teams also qualify.

Let us run the rule over the Group B hopefuls and assess their prospects in the biennial African football showpiece:

Burundi

The tiny central African country secured a first appearance at the expense of favoured Gabon despite drawing four of six qualifiers.

Algeria-based Abdul Razak starred with six goals at an average of one per match — a total bettered only by Ighalo, who netted seven times. But having tormented the defences of Mali, Gabon and South Sudan, can he wreak more havoc against the Nigerian and Guinean defences?

Olivier Niyungeko, who has succeeded where a string of foreign coaches failed, chose Burundians based in 13 countries and also picked one local, goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana.

Verdict: an early exit looms

Guinea

A squad coached by Paul Put hope poor dress rehearsals will be transformed into a grand opening night against Madagascar. Warm-up losses to lower-ranked opponents the Gambia and Benin in Morocco could sow self doubts and there has also been the distraction of injured midfield star Naby Keita.

He injured a thigh playing for Liverpool at Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals and admits to “not yet being fully fit”.

Put, who took outsiders Burkina Faso to the 2013 final, will expect a lot from Ibrahima Traore, a winger based in Germany whose footwork can bewilder even the tightest defences.

Verdict: Quarter-finals a realistic goal

Madagascar

Like Burundi, the Indian Ocean islanders who are making their Cup of Nations debut will eye third place and qualification as one of the four best teams in that position. French coach Nicolas Dupuis has worked wonders with a side that got to Egypt by finishing above Equatorial Guinea and Sudan, and he also coaches a lower-league club in his homeland.

He believes practice makes perfect, saying: “Madagascar used to play three or four matches a year and we’re going nowhere. We now make full use of every international window.” Dupuis has also convinced France-born Thomas Fontaine, Romain Metanire, Jerome Mombris and Jeremy Morel to represent a country they are linked to through parents or grandparents.

Verdict: reaching second round would complete a fairytale

Nigeria

The three-time champions are back at the Cup of Nations after unexpectedly lifting the trophy in 2013 and then failing to qualify for the next two editions. They should take advantage of a kind draw and cruise into the second round, but Nigerian supporters will expect much more from a team coached by experienced German Gernot Rohr.

When the Cup of Nations was last staged by Egypt in 2006, the Super Eagles finished third behind the host nation and the Ivory Coast. Apart from former Watford forward Ighalo, Spain-based Samuel Chukwueze could be a major threat having scored regularly for Villarreal in La Liga last season.

Verdict: Anything less than a semi-final place will be considered failure

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