While security concerns in the Gulf of Guinea focus on two key issues which includes; Piracy in the region and the Internal stability of Nigeria, there are currently other factors behind the scenes in the region that should raise alarm bells. One of the areas of concern happens to be the railings of Africa’s current longest ruling head of state, President Teodoro Obiang who has ruled Equatorial Guinea with an iron hand since the 1979 Coup d’etat. Recently AFP (Agency France Presse) ran an item where he claimed that Cameroon and Gabon were planning to launch a war against him.
Reports indicate that on December 27th a group of 40 armed men were taken into custody by Cameroonian Security Forces while they were enroute the Country. The Ambassador to France from Equatorial Guinea was quoted as saying that this event was an “invasion and destabilization attempt”. Whereupon the border between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea was closed to traffic, the Border with Gabon was also closed as well and the additional steps of sending army troops to augment security measures at both borders were taken.
The very next day activists belonging to the CI (Citizens for Innovation) party were taken into custody at their headquarters in Malabo and in the port city of Bata. This is in addition to 50 other party members that have been in custody since November 12th, 2017 when President Obiang’s ruling party dominate a general election by winning 92% of the votes cast. Thus, it appears that Obiang has found his scapegoat of who may be behind those that were detained internally. However, he is assuming that they had help from the outside and feels that Cameroon is that party.
Peeling back at the layers of this information from Cameroon, there are several other data points that need to be taken into consideration.
1.The problem with the Anglophone community within Cameroon that are restless, unhappy with the authorities in Yaounde for cracking down on their use of the Internet amongst other issues.
2. The Boko Haram insurgency; although this low-level conflict seems to be waning in Cameroon and returning to Nigeria this cannot be overlooked as a factor that will have regional implications.
However, does this mean that an intelligence operation against Obiang was underway? most likely. It probably will not be the last time either such action may be taken. It appears also that the Government of Cameroon may not have known at first that this was being undertaken but could be taken advantage of by a third party. A government under duress could take on such an endeavor against what could be seen as a weaker neighbor. The government of Paul Biya is currently under distress from several factors, but would they take such action against Obiang unless they could prove that he is meddling in the internal affairs of Cameroon?
Gabon is another interesting challenger to this equation. It also had a controversial President who was re-elected recently. That being said, the country is one of the targets of President Obiang when he throws around accusations of entities trying to remove him from power.
A question now begs to be asked that if these fighters were caught in Cameroon why then close the border with Gabon?Closing the border could be a case of securing the castle against all known and unknown adversaries.
President Obiang has proven adept at creating them, but after controversial elections in Brazzaville in 2016, the unwillingness to schedule polls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the actions of Transnational criminals and even some insurgencies from the neighbors could be forcing the hand of Obiang or so he wants others to see.
Author: Scott Morgan
Scott Morgan is the President of Red Eagle Enterprises. He uses his experience from serving in the U.S. Marines during the Reagan Administration, attending college for Criminal Justice, Advocacy for Human Rights and Writing to come up with an interesting matrix and business model. Currently based in Washington, DC he specializes in US Policy towards Africa focusing on Security, Asymmetrical Operations and Business Development South of the Sahara.