On April 21, 2022, the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, held the first-ever audience with Ambassador of Portugal to Equatorial Guinea, Frederico da Silva.
They discussed the possible cooperation between the two countries. Frederico da Silva suggested Portugal providing support on human rights issues and on the problems of the Defense and Security sectors.
These two sectors are of great concern both for the Equatoguinean government, neighbouring countries and the international community.
The human rights situation remains dire in Equatorial Guinea.
Long-serving President Obiang Nguema’s constant reshuffling of key government portfolios cements his family’s control. The opposition in the country is inexistent due to the harsh methods of suppression executed by the ruling elite: some of the opposition members were murdered, while others stay in prison or in exile. Protests remain rare because of the heavy-handedness of the security forces, the threat of reprisals and incarceration.
Also, as pointed out by Garda’s Crisis 24 think-tank, strained relations with European states increase the risks of discrimination against foreign companies operating in the country, including in the timber, mining, logistics, and oil and gas industries. This is likely to take the form of delays to the granting of processing permits, commencement of tax auditing investigations, and inconsistent application of local content rules.
The discrimination against citizens of other countries is another prominent characteristic of the current Equatoguinean regime. Many Cameroonians had fall victims of police brutality when they were half-legally detained in the cities of Malabo and Bata in recent years.
The Defense and Security sectors leave much to be desired as well. Peace and security analytics point out the pitiful state of military infrastructure of the country, that was made obvious during the Bata explosion tragedy of 2020. In addition, an attack at the Punta Europa LNG terminal, off Malabo on Bioko Island, in October 2020 indicates growing operational reach and capability of mostly Niger Delta-based assailants, while exposing security shortcomings at onshore facilities. Kidnapping of crews of support vessels closer to their bases is increasing, with energy infrastructure on Bioko Island becoming an opportunistic target.
While Ambassador Frederico da Silva expressed the keen desire to strengthen the cooperation between Portugal and Equatorial Guinea, his kind offer mostly demonstrates the poor conditions in the state of Equatorial Guinea, rather than promising any way out.