Murphy's Law: Discreet Mercenaries In Africa


November 22,2008: 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.

Equatorial 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.

The 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.

It's 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.



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