Editing Of- New York / Intl. News
The President of Equatorial Guinea and leader of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace (Ipsp) Mr Obiang Mbasogo at the un security council next to the Secretary-General of the UN Mr. Antonio Guterres:
A trip by the United Nations Security Council to the Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa to promote state sovereignty; a visit to the UN from one of Africa’s longest-serving head of state, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; and discussions on arms and piracy: these are the big items on Equatorial Guinea’s menu this month for its first rotating presidency in the Security Council.
After 50 years of independence and 50 years at the UN — including 40 under Obiang — pressure is high for the West African nation to impress its fellow world diplomats in its presidency in February. Equatorial Guinea joined the Council as an elected member for a two-year term in 2018. When Obiang first gave a speech to the UN, in 1985, he said that it needed to be reformed, and he asked for help from the international community to build democratic institutions in his country, the sole Spanish-speaking one in Africa. It consists of a few offshore islands in the Gulf of Guinea and mainland territory, together the size of Belgium. Decades later, Equatorial Guinea is by many standards an economically and democratically deprived country. Obiang has overseen a rapidly growing oil-based economy, since that natural resource was discovered in 1996, and has tried to increase Equatorial Guinea’s presence in multilateral organizations to gain global legitimacy while deflecting a reputation as one of the most corrupt and repressive countries in Africa. According to data from Freedom House, a democratic-watchdog group financed partly by the United States government, most of the money coming from natural resources in Equatorial Guinea is concentrated in the president’s family. PassBlue reported in May 2017 that the country had most likely bribed its way to a seat on the Security Council. Since the discovery of oil and gas reserves, Equatorial Guinea has become sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil exporter; as a result, it has one of the highest GDPs per capita of any country in the world. Yet the country ranks 135 out of 188 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, which examines longevity, health, education levels and other standards. Equatorial Guinea takes in roughly $4 billion annually in resource revenue, according to Human Rights Watch, but it doesn’t make its budgets public, so it is hard to know where the money goes. Moreover, the country severely restricts visitors from outside the country, except generally for Americans, as ExxonMobil is the largest oil investor in the nation. Still, Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba, who has represented his country at the UN since 2010, thinks Equatorial Guinea has much to teach his Security Council colleagues this month. PassBlue interviewed the ambassador to discuss his country’s evolution, ambitions and the trip to West Africa. As part of our monthly series, called Security Council Presidency, PassBlue has profiled UN ambassadors whose countries have held the rotating presidency of the Council, since July 2018: Sweden, Britain, US, Bolivia, China, Ivory Coast (or Côte d’Ivoire) and Dominican Republic. The column is meant to be an informative capsule of not only the country’s ambassador but also the ambitions of the country occupying the president’s seat. A short country profile is part of our feature. The interview has been edited and condensed.