An Israeli woman, Yardena Ovadia, has managed to sell Equatorial Guinea
about $100 million worth of weapons and military equipment recently. That's an
amazing achievement, given that Equatorial Guinea is run by people who dabble
in piracy and kidnapping. For example, two years ago, Equatorial Guinea seized
over a hundred UN armored vehicles (for peacekeepers in Congo) on a Ukrainian
ship that had stopped by to drop off some cargo. The year before that, Mark
Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was forced to
pay Equatorial Guinea a $500,000 fine to get out of the country. Thatcher had
earlier been arrested and charged with attempting to overthrow the government.
There's certainly a need for that.
Guinea has been ruled, since 1979, by dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
(who inherited the job from his uncle, via a coup.) Obiang has grown
increasingly paranoid and unstable of late. That's because oil was discovered
in the 1990s, and that produced more money than has ever been seen before in
the tiny country of only 600,000 people. Obiang has stolen most of the billion
dollars in annual oil income, handing
out enough of it to cronies to keep himself in power. But, in a situation like
that, who can you really trust? So when a ship comes by, with a hundred UN
peacekeeper vehicles on deck (worth some $20 million), what do you do? After
all, the army of Equatorial Guinea consists of only three battalions, and the
stuff on the ship would equip one of those battalions with better gear then
they have now.
situation in Equatorial Guinea is not likely to resolve itself, as Obiang
appears to be losing control, with his son, and other members of the family
(including those that run the armed forces) apparently wanting to get their
hands on the oil money bank accounts. The United States has long protested the
corruption in Equatorial Guinea, actually closing its embassy from 1995 to 2003
because of the atrocities committed by the government.
possible that Ovadia is selling Obiang more than patrol boats and armored
vehicles. There could also be contracts for mercenaries involved, to help keep
Obiang in power. Or at least prevent him from dying (violently) in office. Such
mercenary deals are frowned upon by the UN, Israel, and most governments in
Africa. So such deals would be made quietly. But former Israeli soldiers and
commandos do a brisk business in the security field. And right now, president
Obiang needs a lot of security.