Oil Slump Poses New Challenges for Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Regime

Oil Slump Poses New Challenges for Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang Regime
Equatorial Guinea's president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, during the India Africa Forum Summit, New Delhi, India, Oct. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Africa’s longest-serving head of state, appears poised to formally extend his rule over oil-rich Equatorial Guinea later this year. The septuagenarian strongman has confirmed his intention to run in November’s presidential election, a contest no one expects him to lose, since the political opposition is marginalized and the state is firmly under the control of Obiang and his family.

Though the election results already look certain, volatile energy revenues and Obiang’s ongoing efforts to position his son as the heir apparent threaten to jeopardize the regime’s future stability. The oil slump undermines Obiang’s long-established strategy of using petrodollars to secure greater legitimacy abroad and bolster domestic support. The troubled personal history of his son, Second Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, also known as Teodorin, coupled withTeodorin’s toxic image in the West, has reportedly raised questions among members of the elite in the capital, Malabo, over his fitness to lead. If unfavorable economic conditions persist, the Obiang regime could be riven by internal dissent, as those opposed to Teodorin seek to derail his accession.

Equatorial Guinea has only known two rulers since gaining independence from Spain in 1968: Obiang and his uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema. In governing the small Central African state as its first president, Macias—a member of the country’s largest ethnic group, the Fang—concentrated power into the hands of his kinsmen from the Esangui clan. His government violently targeted any political threats, both real and imagined, which led to thousands of deaths and economic ruin. Macias’ increasingly erratic behavior convinced Obiang and other senior officials that their benefactor had lost his mind. In an act of self-preservation, Obiang staged a coup in August 1979; a month later, Macias was sentenced to death by a special tribunal and executed.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review