|Thursday 02nd of January 2020
Henri Cartier-Bresson Queen Charlotte's ball. London. GB. 1959. Henri Cartier-Bresson | @MagnumPhotos
In the image of Queen Charlotte’s Ball from 1959, the camera captures
a scene from above the dancefloor. An annual debutante ball that took
place in London from 1780 to 1976, and was resurrected in the early
2000s, the function served to ‘promote’ young women of prominent
social ranking and to celebrate their places as newly-recognized
adults in high society. Cartier-Bresson’s scene attracts our gaze to
the voluminous taffeta of the young women’s dresses moving as they
spin in time to the music, their partners’ suit tails mimicking their
motion. The scene is alive, filled with possibility for the women in
the scene for whom the dance is a social ritual signalling their next
steps into a new life stage.
Unrest in Baghdad could instead create a pretext for the Americans to increase their military presence in Iraq to put additional pressure on Tehran and Damascus, Balmasov told RT
Law & Politics
“A full evacuation of the Embassy could be seen as severing all
diplomatic ties, which is impossible” given the current level of US
involvement in Iraq, Lukyanov noted. In addition to the embassy and
other diplomatic offices, Washington has a major military presence on
Iraqi soil, using it to project power in the region.
Sergey Balmasov of the Institute of the Middle East in Moscow, also
believes that the withdrawal of the US from Iraq is unrealistic. Such
a move would hurt President Donald Trump’s chances of reelection in
2020 and “lead to Iran strengthening its position in the region.”
Unrest in Baghdad could instead create a pretext for the Americans to
increase their military presence in Iraq to put additional pressure on
Tehran and Damascus, Balmasov told RT, adding, “I doubt that Trump
will now send a massive 200,000 contingent into the country, which his
predecessor Barack Obama earlier pulled out.”
"The Iraq war was a colossal mistake that strengthened Iran beyond belief. There was never any realistic chance of installing a pro-American government in Shiite-dominated Baghdad." writes @RMConservative
Law & Politics
The Iraq war was a colossal mistake that strengthened Iran beyond
belief. There was never any realistic chance of installing a
pro-American government in Shiite-dominated Baghdad.
Our forces are eternally on the hook both for the Iranian-backed
Shiite attacks and the Sunni insurgencies, in response to the Shiite
hegemony threatening our forces and assets in the country.
This is the enduring lesson our policymakers refuse to understand as
they continue to grope in the darkness, perpetuating policies in the
Middle East based on illusions.
In the case of Iraq, there is this illusion that Baghdad is somehow
our ally, when in fact it is perpetually an ally of Iran. This is
painfully obvious from the developments today in Iraq.
Because of our fear that Iran will retaliate against our forces in
Iraq, our government has largely held back from destroying Iran’s
naval piracy operations in the Persian Gulf, which, unlike the Iraq
nation-building mission, actually affects our strategic interests.
This notion that we must remain in Baghdad to fight off Iranian
influence is the most circular argument imaginable. The Shiite
population is already going to side with Iran in perpetuity, and it
will forever spawn endless rounds of Sunni insurgencies.
We will never be able to fix the constituencies that these terrorist
actors represent. The best we can do is free ourselves from this
entanglement, so that we can confront Iran directly from a position of
Foreign policy hawks will call for a robust response to Iran for
attacking our embassy. But we need to also think strategically in the
long term. On behalf of whom are we fighting in Baghdad? Why are we
backing a government led by Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a man who worked closely
with Iran while in exile under Saddam Hussein?
That question must finally be answered after two decades of failure.
We have nothing to show for the war other than tens of thousands of
dead and wounded Americans, Iranian hegemony, the Sunnis fueling more
terrorism, and 200,000 unvetted immigrants we’ve taken in from Iraq –
equally divided between Sunnis and Shias.
What our policymakers refuse to understand is that the Middle East is
not like a game of Risk with different pieces on the board
representing different leaders or terror groups.
There are multiple warring tribes of Islamists in all of these
countries, and in places like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, there
really is no “country” to speak of.
The State Department said yesterday, “We are standing with the Iraqi
people.” But who are those people? Which ones? On behalf of which
government over which territory that can be held, and in what way?
To recognize that the Baghdadi government is an enemy of the United
States is to acknowledge that not only was the Iraq war a mistake, but
that its outcome was a boon for Iran.
The same failed generals and civilian leaders who led us into this are
not going to readily admit that.
Trump himself must finally rectify these mistakes and make this coming
decade an America-first decade, where we only fight and die for our
own interests at our own border and for strategic assets elsewhere.
It’s time to fight to our own strengths rather than to the strengths
of our enemies.
Iran just outplayed the United States - again @washingtonpost
Law & Politics
To call the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad merely a diplomatic mission is to
severely understate its scope and size. At 104 acres, the compound is
nearly the size of Vatican City and comes complete with its own
dormitories, dining halls, electrical plant, fire department and
everything else needed to support the thousands of diplomats and
contractors housed inside its thick walls.
I have been there many times, and every time I felt like I was being
magically whisked from the Middle East to small-town America.
So it was all the more shocking to read that hundreds of supporters of
Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia, broke into the compound
on Tuesday and ransacked the reception areas familiar to all visitors.
To anyone of my generation (I was born in 1969), it instantly conjured
up terrible memories of the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 to 1981.
The protesters even shouted the same slogan — “Death to America” — as
the Iranian hostage-takers.
Mercifully, Tuesday’s embassy invasion ended without any Americans
being harmed after Iraqi security forces belatedly arrived to restore
order, but the demonstrators remain just outside the embassy walls.
This is another reminder that in the long-running conflict between the
United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, we have
repeatedly been humbled and hurt by a smaller but more determined and
Indeed, for the past 41 years, Iran has put on a master class in
irregular warfare, leaving the United States flummoxed about how to
In the 1980s, Iranian-backed forces took dozens of Americans hostage
in Lebanon and demolished both the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine
barracks in Beirut with truck bombs that killed hundreds.
President Ronald Reagan was so desperate to free the hostages that he
was willing to sell missiles to Iran — a backroom maneuver that blew
up into the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration after the
proceeds were secretly diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras.
In 1987, Reagan sent U.S. naval forces to prevent Iran from closing
the Persian Gulf as part of its war against Iraq. One U.S. Navy
frigate was nearly sunk by an Iraqi missile and another by an Iranian
mine, but U.S. forces inflicted heavy damages on Iran’s Revolutionary
Guard Navy and accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger airliner.
This was the first and last time that U.S. and Iranian forces engaged
in direct battle. Iran prefers to do most of its damage via proxies.
Following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iranian-sponsored Shiite
militias killed hundreds of U.S. service members.
President George W. Bush condemned Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil,”
but wisely decided against escalating hostilities. The United States
was mired in enough wars without starting another one against a nation
of 81 million people.
The Iranians took advantage of Bush’s ill-advised decision to
overthrow their nemesis Saddam Hussein to extend Iranian influence
across Iraq under the very noses of American occupiers.
Iran was already the dominant player in Lebanon. In the past two
decades, it has become the dominant player in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen,
too. The new Persian Empire stretches from Tehran to Beirut.
The only effective U.S. response to the Iranian threat since Reagan’s
tanker war was President Barack Obama’s decision to conclude a deal
with Iran in 2015 that would freeze its nuclear program.
The deal did nothing to curb Iran’s regional power play and may have
even fueled it by lifting economic sanctions — which is why I and
others opposed it at the time. But it did at least stop Iran’s
development of nuclear weapons.
President Trump blundered by exiting the nuclear deal in 2018 and
imposing economic sanctions on Iran in 2019, even though it was
complying with the agreement.
Pushed into a corner, Iran and its proxies have lashed out by
allegedly attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, shooting down a
U.S. drone, hitting a major Saudi oil facility with cruise missiles —
and now rocketing a compound near Kirkuk, Iraq.
The latter attack, which killed an American contractor and injured
four U.S. troops on Friday, led Trump to retaliate with airstrikes
across Iraq and Syria that killed 25 members of Kataib Hezbollah, the
Iranian-backed militia blamed for the rocket attack, and sparked
The embassy invasion on Tuesday was Iran’s riposte to make clear that
it will not bow to American pressure. Your move, Mr. Trump.
The United States has only two ways out of this escalating crisis:
fight or negotiate.
A war with Iran, as I have previously argued, could be the mother of
all quagmires; it could easily spin out of control with tit-for-tat
responses of the kind we have seen in recent days. Better to
That would mean trying to rebuild a tougher nuclear deal in return for
the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
But Trump shows little interest in either seriously negotiating or
fighting. He has waged economic warfare on Iran while doing nothing to
curb its regional aggression; indeed, by withdrawing U.S. troops from
part of northern Syria, he has allowed an extension of Iranian
So we are left with the worst of all possible worlds: Iran is once
again waging a low-intensity conflict, and America once again has no
Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood
Law & Politics
Revelation 6:12-13: When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and
behold, there was a great earth- quake, and the sun became black as
sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky
fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken
by a gale.
"We Are the Ones Who Will Awaken the Dawn" @Consortiumnews @vijayprashad
Law & Politics
Millions of people are on the streets, from India to Chile. Democracy
is both their promise and it is what has betrayed them.
They aspire to the democratic spirit but find that democratic
institutions – saturated by money and power – are inadequate.
They are on the streets for more democracy, deeper democracy, a
different kind of democracy.
Sharply, in each and every region of India, ordinary people
unaffiliated to political parties alongside the Indian Left have taken
to the streets to demand the withdrawal of a fascistic law that would
turn Muslims into non-citizens.
This immense wave rises even when the government tries to declare
demonstrations illegal, and even as the government shuts down the
Internet. Twenty people have been killed by the police forces thus
None of this stopped the people, who declared loudly that they would
not accept the suffocation of the Far Right. This continues to be an
unanticipated and overwhelming uprising of the population.
The use of divisive social issues allows for a diversion from the
issues of hunger and hopelessness.
This is what the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch called the ‘swindle
The benefit of social production, Bloch wrote, ‘is reaped by the big
capitalist upper stratum, which employs gothic dreams against
The entertainment industry erodes proletarian culture with the acid of
aspirations that cannot be fulfilled under the capitalist system. But
these aspirations are enough to push aside any working-class project.
Democracy is a game of numbers. Oligarchies are forced by the
establishment of democratic systems to respect the fact that the
masses must participate in political life.
The masses must be political, but – from the standpoint of the
bourgeoisie – they must not be permitted to control the political
dynamic; they must be political and de-politicized at the same time.
They must be agitated sufficiently, but not agitated so much so that
they challenge the membrane that protects the economy and society from
Once that membrane is breached, the fragility of capitalist legitimacy
ends. Democracy cannot be allowed into the arena of the economy and of
society; it must remain at the level of politics, where it must be
restricted to electoral processes.
the unemployment crisis cannot be solved unless this contradiction is
resolved on behalf of social labour. Since that is unspeakable for the
bourgeoisie, it no longer seeks to resolve the contradiction but
settles for a ‘bait and switch’ strategy – it is acceptable to talk of
unemployment, for instance, but there is no need to blame private
capital for that; instead, blame migrants, or other scapegoats.
To accomplish this ‘bait and switch’, the Far Right has to go against
another seam of thought in classical liberalism: the protection of
Democratic constitutions have all been aware of the ‘tyranny of the
majority’, setting barriers to majoritarianism through laws and
regulations that protect minority rights and cultures.
These laws and regulations have been essential for the widening of
democracy in society. But the Far Right’s democracy is premised not on
these protections but on their destruction.
It seeks to inflame the majority against the minority in order to
bring the masses onto its side, but not to allow the classes within
them to develop their own politics.
Minorities are disenfranchised in the name of democracy; violence is
let loose in the name of the feelings of the majority.
Citizenship is narrowed around the definitions of the majority; people
are told to accept the culture of the majority.
This is what the BJP government has done in India with the Citizenship
(Amendment) Act of 2019. It is what the people reject.
By the swindle of majoritarianism, the Far Right can appear to be
democratic when it operates to protect the membrane between politics
(merely in the electoral sense) and society, as well as the economy.
The protection of this membrane is essential, the abolishment of any
potential expansion of democracy into society and the economy
forbidden. The fiction of democracy is maintained as the promise of
democracy is set aside.
It is this promise that provokes the people onto the streets in India,
Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, and elsewhere.
21-OCT-2019 :: The New Economy of Anger
Law & Politics
“The revolutionary contingent attains its ideal form not in the place
of production, but in the street, where for a moment it stops being a
cog in the technical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of
attack), in other words, a producer of speed.’’
The Phenomenon is spreading like wildfire in large part because of the
tinder dry conditions underfoot. Prolonged stand-offs eviscerate
economies, reducing opportunities and accelerate the negative feed-
Antonio Gramsci wrote, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that
the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a
great variety of morbid symptoms appear. now is the time of monsters.”
Leadership in the c21st has become nationalistic and jingoistic,
horizons have been narrowed. President Trump is not John F Kennedy. Xi
Jinping is all about Han China. Narendra Modi is all about the
Hindutva. Boris is all about Brexit. In Africa, other than the Nobel
Prize Winner Abiy, who else is sketching out a horizon? Today’s
leadership does not appreciate the humanity of all of its citizens,
how can they appreciate the humanity of the world or as Marshall
McLuhan once put it:- “There are no passengers on the spaceship earth.
We are all crew.”
Ryszard Kapuściński wrote:- “Revolution must be distinguished from
revolt, coup d’état, palace takeover. A coup or a palace takeover may
be planned, but a revolution—never. Its outbreak, the hour of that
outbreak, takes everyone, even those who have been striving for it,
unawares. They stand amazed at the spontaneity that appears suddenly
and destroys everything in its path. It demolishes so ruthlessly that
in the end, it may annihilate the ideals that called it into being.”
This is a Revolution and it is a Global Phenomenon.
Ryszard Kapucinski also said: “If the crowd disperses, goes home, does
not reassemble, we say the revolution is over.”
It is not over. More and more people are gathering in the Streets.
"To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so." Proudhon
Law & Politics
“To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon,
directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at,
controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who
have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so.”
"Ghosn with the Wind" and "Ghosn, Ghosn Gone." @business
Law & Politics
How did Carlos Ghosn do it?
The former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, who was awaiting
the first of two trials in Tokyo, somehow evaded almost
round-the-clock manned and video surveillance and heavy restrictions
on his freedom of movement to flee to Lebanon.
From there, Ghosn released an email Tuesday decrying the “injustice
and political persecution” of the Japanese judicial system. The
65-year-old faced charges of financial misconduct and raiding
corporate resources for personal gain, allegations he denies.
Soon after he resurfaced, the internet lit up with unconfirmed reports
and theories of how Ghosn, now an international fugitive, pulled off
an escape befitting a Hollywood thriller -- one that will be very hard
for Japanese authorities to live down. There are still more questions
In one speculative account, which cited no sources, Lebanese
television station MTV reported that Ghosn smuggled himself out of
Japan in a large musical instrument box after a Christmas band visited
his residence in Tokyo. He was then shipped out of the country and
later entered Lebanon from Turkey on a private plane.
Ghosn’s getaway followed weeks of planning, the Wall Street Journal
reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter. A team
of accomplices assembled last weekend to carry out his exfiltration,
and his wife, Carole, played a major role in the operation, the
A detailed report in the French daily Le Monde, citing unidentified
sources, similarly reported that Carole Ghosn organized the escape
with the help of her brothers and their contacts in Turkey, and that
her husband entered Lebanon with an ID card.
He may have decided to flee because of new information Japanese
authorities could have obtained from a Swiss bank and from offshore
centers including Dubai, the newspaper reported.
U.S. Intelligence Agencies Prepare to Pull Back Officers From Africa @nytimes
An expected withdrawal of military forces would lead the C.I.A. and
other agencies to reduce their presence, leaving some officials and
experts fearful of a gap in stopping terrorist threats.
WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies face a significant
reduction in their counterterrorism collection efforts in Africa if a
proposed withdrawal of United States military forces is carried out by
the Pentagon, intelligence officials said.
The new planning to pull back intelligence officers deployed in
Western Africa and other parts of the continent has been partly driven
by the troop deployment review, which is expected to reduce American
forces in Niger, Nigeria and other countries in the region.
The presence of American troops allows intelligence officers to travel
far from traditional diplomatic outposts. The troops also provide
protection in the event of spreading chaos or instability.
Stark evidence of the risk was seen in the lethal 2012 attacks in
Benghazi, Libya, and increased security was ordered for those
If service members are soon pulled out of Africa, the C.I.A. and other
intelligence agencies simply would not be able to safely deploy their
officers far beyond embassy walls, officials say.
One intelligence official called the potential shift of C.I.A.
officers out of Africa stunningly dangerous. The decision would not
just hurt the United States’ ability to detect and stop terrorism
threats, the official said, but also hinder America’s ability to
collect intelligence about what rival nations, like Russia and China,
are doing in Africa.
While it is difficult to assess how much of an intelligence deficit
would follow a troop pullback, the loss would be real, said Nicholas
J. Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism
“With a smaller military and intelligence presence, we limit how much
intelligence we collect. Our analysts have a less rich pool of
information on which to draw when reaching conclusions and forecasting
threat conditions,” said Mr. Rasmussen, the acting executive director
of Arizona State University’s McCain Institute.
“Our confidence levels in the analysis we produce end up being lower.”
Trump administration officials would not say how many intelligence
officers could be affected by the changes because the number of
officers in the field is a closely guarded secret.
The pullback of intelligence officers is not driven only by the
planned troop reductions. Counterterrorism officials are also being
asked to rethink their work and narrow their focus to the most
dangerous terrorist groups, according to current and former
After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States shifted resources to
fighting terrorism. While most of those were focused on groups like Al
Qaeda and then the Islamic State, both with the reach to orchestrate
or inspire attacks on the United States homeland, American military
and intelligence agencies also built up resources against regional
The Trump administration, hoping to prevent the United States from
becoming entangled in more long wars, wants the military and
intelligence forces to scale down their ambitions. Under the plans now
being discussed, fewer resources would be allocated to monitoring
regional threats — terrorist groups that might spout anti-American
speech but do not have the wherewithal to mount a significant attack
on United States territory.
Mr. Rasmussen said no terrorist organization in Africa so far had
successfully been able to attack the American homeland, giving
credence to the idea that too much emphasis had been put on such
But without military and intelligence personnel on the ground, working
with partner nations to help combat regional terrorist organizations,
it becomes difficult to assess which groups have or could have the
capabilities to mount an attack on the United States, Mr. Rasmussen
“If our intelligence picture is degraded significantly by a drawdown
in presence, we run the risk of failing to collect that critical bit
of intelligence that might give us insight on the capability part of
the equation,” Mr. Rasmussen said.
The shift, military and intelligence officials said, is also part of
an effort to move resources toward countering the rise of China and to
more adroitly compete with Beijing.
But some American officials believe that cutting back the intelligence
and military presence will reduce the United States’ clout in Africa
at the very time it is becoming a front line in the influence battle
with Russia and China.
The three nations are jostling for prominence in sub-Saharan Africa.
Russia’s mercenary force, the Wagner Group, has had a presence in the
Central African Republic and other countries, said Sean McFate, a
professor at the National Defense University and the author of “The
New Rules of War.”
China has a military support base in Djibouti and is using its Belt
and Road Initiative to expand its connections throughout the
“Where we are competing with China is in Africa,” Mr. McFate said. “It
seems shortsighted to cede the field. It is strategically myopic to
move intelligence — which is the only way we are going to find out on
the ground in these places — out of the region.”
Some intelligence officials insist that even if American military
forces or C.I.A. officers are collecting less front-line intelligence,
analysts in Washington can still draw valuable insights and warnings
on terrorist threats.
But Mr. McFate said gathering knowledge about Africa was not like
Eastern Europe during the years when American intelligence focused on
the communist threat.
A diplomat sitting in the capital simply cannot assess the strength of
a terrorist group operating in a distant province, or the influence of
Russian or Chinese mercenary companies.
The C.I.A. does not take policy positions in interagency discussions,
and only points out the implications of different approaches.
Nevertheless, inside the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies, many
experts on Africa and counterterrorism are worried that the troop
pullback will have a deep impact on collection efforts, according to
Even so, some officials have played down the planned pullback of
troops and intelligence personnel. Without the troop presence,
American officials said, they would need to switch how they collect
information — relying less on officers in the field and more on
intercepted communications, satellite imagery and other technical
But outside experts have questioned how much technical collection can
compensate for a reduction in intelligence officers working in trouble
spots in Africa, learning who is responsible for regional instability
and what the aims of various groups are.
Mr. McFate said that as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down,
there is a weariness with counterinsurgency operations, akin to the
end of the Vietnam War.
But pulling troops and intelligence officers out of Africa as a
reaction to the exhaustion with “forever wars” is a strategic error,
“America has lost an appetite for counterinsurgency; they just think
of this as a never-ending war,” he said. “It is a reaction to that,
but it is a strategic misstep.”
Four decades of growth, but Equatorial Guinea's people still mired in poverty @FT @neiLmunshi
In the roadside bars of New Billy, a sprawling slum in Malabo, people
drink Castel beer and steer clear of politics.
“They try to make Malabo like Dubai but that’s not reality — this is
the real Malabo,” said one resident of Equatorial Guinea’s capital,
pointing to the stream of sewage running down the rutted street.
Just a few miles away, in the manicured Sipopo district, the country’s
leaders courted international executives in glittering five-star
“There’s a lot of money, but it all goes to the president and his
family,” the man said, before stopping himself. “But I shouldn’t talk
— you talk too much and . . . ” he slid his finger across his neck.
President Teodoro Obiang Nguema seized power 40 years ago, ousting his
uncle in a bloody coup in 1979. Since then his family has ruled with
absolute power over one of Africa’s richest countries.
US oil companies discovered giant crude deposits in the country’s
maritime waters in the mid-1990s, generating billions of dollars in
annual revenues for the regime.
Gross domestic product per capita in the country of 1m people is now
among the highest in Africa — higher than that of Brazil and China —
but very little has trickled down to the population.
Equatorial Guinea ranks 141 out of 189 countries in the UN Human
Development Index. According to Human Rights Watch, it has the world’s
largest gap between per capita wealth and its human development score.
“We have many, many hotels. But no schools. No good hospitals. No
water, nothing,” said Andres Esono Ondo, secretary-general of
Convergence for Social Democracy, one of only two genuine opposition
In an example that human rights activists say is typical of the
regime’s treatment of its opponents, Mr Ondo was arrested in
neighbouring Chad earlier this year and held by authorities for 13
days, accused by Equatorial Guinea of planning a coup.
“They persecute us because they’re scared,” he told the Financial
Times. “This is a government that likes violence, so when you apply
the law . . . they are very nervous.”
Freedom House, a US-based think-tank, lists Equatorial Guinea as the
sixth least free country in the world — between North Korea and Saudi
Arabia — describing the nation as an “oil kleptocracy”.
Arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings and torture are all common.
In 2016, Mr Obiang, 77, won his fifth seven-year term with his
smallest share of the vote yet: 94 per cent. His coalition holds every
seat in parliament.
The international community has largely been silent on the state’s
alleged abuses. US oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Kosmos and
Marathon form the backbone of the economy.
Equatorial Guinea at present sits on the UN Security Council, and the
IMF has approved a $280m loan facility for the country.
This year the government has held two international energy conferences
in Malabo’s gated Sipopo district as it has sought to attract
A surreal stretch of private beaches and luxury hotels that looks like
it was airdropped from another continent, Sipopo includes 52 identical
presidential villas built for a week-long African Union summit in
It is one of many impractical government infrastructure projects,
including international airports on sparsely populated islands and a
city in the middle of the rainforest with a new university and no
In contrast, Mr Obiang has spent very little on education — 2.3 per
cent of GDP in 2015, according to the World Bank — or healthcare.
The 2014 oil price crash halted the infrastructure spending spree.
Crude production has fallen by roughly two-thirds to about 120,000
barrels per day, according to the International Energy Agency, while
GDP per capita has almost halved, to just over $10,000, though still
among the highest in Africa.
The Frank Gehry-esque new airport in Malabo is one of many projects
Few trucks ply the world-class highway that loops around Bioko — the
lush, volcanic island that is home to Malabo, 40km off the coast of
The road network is similarly pristine on the mainland, a 10,000 sq km
rectangle sandwiched between Cameroon and Gabon.
“He is not groomed in the same manner,” said Alex Vines, Africa
programme head at think-tank Chatham House. “The politics are
Instead, Mr Lima’s older brother, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, is viewed as
the president in waiting.
Better known as Teodorin, the vice-president has been the subject of
corruption investigations and asset seizures around the world.
Probes in the US, France and Switzerland have exposed an astonishing
list of trophy assets allegedly owned by the 51-year-old.
They include a 100-room mansion near the Champs-Elysées in Paris, a
$120m yacht called the Ebony Shine and Michael Jackson’s sequinned
Mr Lima said the country was “not a royalty” where succession would be
decided “by blood”, but he compared it with oil monarchies such as
Qatar or Kuwait.
“At the end, His Excellency is the one who knows [best],” he added.
Many Equatoguineans hope it will not be that simple and that economic
and social pressures will eventually force change.
“Gaddafi is gone, Mugabe is gone,” said one man walking near the “I
HEART MALABO” sign at the oceanside Paseo Maritimo promenade in
Malabo. “And one day Obiang will be gone too.”
"The key prize is the neutralisation of Isabel dos Santos," Jonker said. @ReutersUK
Since ending José Eduardo dos Santos’ nearly 40-year grip on power in
2017, Lourenço has been trying to erase the influence of his
predecessor and reform sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy.
But Lourenço is under pressure as the economy continues to contract
under his watch.
Isabel dos Santos said the asset freeze was “politically motivated”
and that the case against her had been held in total secrecy.
''The judgment contains statements which are completely untrue,” she
said in a statement. She later told Reuters by phone that she had
never been summoned or questioned by an Angolan court or prosecutors.
The move against her comes as the ex-president’s son, José Filomeno de
Sousa, faces corruption charges, accused of helping transfer $500
million (£377.27 million) from the sovereign wealth fund.
Called “Africa’s wealthiest woman”, Isabel dos Santos amassed a
fortune estimated at more than $2 billion through stakes in Angolan
companies including banks and the telecoms firm Unitel, earning her
the nickname “the Princess”.
She chaired the state oil company Sonangol before being sacked by
Lourenço months after he came to power.
A court document dated Dec. 23 said the government believed Isabel dos
Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo and Mário Leite da Silva, chairman
of Banco de Fomento Angola (BFA), had caused the state losses of more
than $1 billion.
“The state through its companies Sodiam (a diamond marketing firm) and
Sonangol transferred enormous quantities of foreign currency to
companies abroad whose beneficiaries are the defendants, without
receiving the agreed return,” the court said.
“The defendants recognise the existence of the debt but allege that
they do not have the means to pay.”
Dokolo told Reuters the Angolan government was pushing for a freeze on
his and his wife’s international assets as well.
He said Lourenço’s government was trying to portray him and his wife
as criminals without proper evidence. Da Silva declined to comment.
The asset freeze applies to personal bank accounts of dos Santos,
Dokolo and da Silva in Angola and stakes they hold in Angolan firms
including Unitel, BFA and ZAP MIDIA.
Dos Santos is believed to live in Portugal and Britain and to have a
significant portion of her wealth offshore.
The court said the central bank would ensure that no funds leave the
Angolan bank accounts of the three accused.
The boards of each of the nine Angolan companies affected by the asset
freeze must ensure that the relevant stakes are not sold and that no
profits from the shares are transferred to the accused.
The court said Isabel dos Santos had tried to transfer some of her
businesses to Russia and that Portuguese police had blocked a transfer
of 10 million euros ($11 million) from one of her business partners to
Darias Jonker, Africa director at Eurasia Group, said the asset freeze
showed Lourenço felt he could now move aggressively against the dos
Santos family without risking his control over the ruling MPLA party.
“The key prize is the neutralisation of Isabel dos Santos,” Jonker said.