August 26, 2004

The Coup That Wasn't

The whole story sounds like a wild-eyed conspiracy theory. The son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been arrested in South Africa on charges that he was planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea along with several accomplices, also in custody. Oh yeah, and when they arrested him, he was packing to move to Texas. Some highlights [emphasis mine]:

...Seventy people are on trial in Zimababwe in connection with the alleged plot. The majority of them were arrested at an airport in Harare in March, where they had been aboard a plane allegedly bound for Equatorial Guinea. Another 19 are on trial in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

Prosecutors claim the men on the plane were mercenaries led by Briton Simon Mann, 51. Mr Mann is the founder of Executive Outcomes, a mercenary company, and a neighbour of Sir Mark in South Africa. He was arrested on the plane in Harare and is currently in a prison in Zimbabwe while his trial continues.

The Equatorial Guinea government has accused the millionaire oil trader, Ely Calil, of having helped to organise a coup from his west London home, and has issued a warrant for the arrest of David Hart, a former adviser to Malcolm Rifkind and Michael Portillo.

...The alleged plotters were said to be hoping to exploit Equatorial Guinea's huge oil reserves by installing their own leader, Severo Moto, who is currently in exile in Spain.

Others implicated in the alleged plot include South African arms dealer Nick du Toit, who faces the death penalty if convicted. His co-defendants face prison sentences of up to 86 years if the case is found proved against them.

...Equatorial Guinea pumps 350,000 barrels of oil a day, and has become Africa's third-largest oil producer since offshore development began in the mid-90s. ...

Private mercenaries, an arms dealer, the bored son of a former head of state acting as a money man, an oil trader, and one nation with very little political or military clout, but enough oil to make it a good target. Who knows why they didn't get away with it, maybe the first group to be arrested sang like canaries, but this might have wound up another case of forgettable civil war in Africa.

Now, why civil wars in Africa are forgettable, that's something to take up with the press. I'm just glad that Sudan has finally made an impression, maybe it will be a new trend in reporting. You know, covering important things.

Posted by natasha at August 26, 2004 11:14 AM | International | Technorati links |

As far as I can make out, they didn't get away with it because South African intelligence got onto them, waited until the planeload of mercenaries had left Polokwane for Harare, then tipped off the Equatorial Guineans and the Zimbabweans.

Apparently our government is getting weary of South Africa being the mercenary capital of the planet. Plus, we have a lot of interest in keeping things in Central Africa cool, and a coup in Equatorial Guinea would almost certainly have led to anarchy (even though the present government sucks big time, it's better than being run by a bunch of whiteys with guns).

Posted by: MFB at August 27, 2004 02:13 AM

I was a wee bit suspicious at the line,...Equatorial Guinea pumps 350,000 barrels of oil a day, and has become Africa's third-largest oil producer since offshore development began in the mid-90s.

It may be the 3rd largest south of the Sahara:

Nigeria: 2.02 million bbl/day
Libya: 1.5 million bbl/day
Algeria: 1.5 million bbl/day
Angola: 1.5 million bbl/day

Equatorial Guinea nudged out Gabon for 3rd place in Africa south of the Sahara; but Sudan is right behind, at 345,000 bbl/day.

Posted by: James R MacLean at August 28, 2004 10:37 PM

Correction: Angolan production is 923,000 bbl/day; Algerian production, 1.86 million.

Utter trivia: Algeria is the world's 2nd largest exporter of LNG: 17% of the world total. Indonesia is the largest; nearly all of its reserves of natural gas are located in Aceh.

Posted by: James R MacLean at August 28, 2004 10:46 PM