Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome sign security pact

Sep 29, 2005 02:00 AM

Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and its neighbour Sao Tome have signed a security pact. Both have been hit by attempted coups, and both are of key security interest to the US.
Equatorial Guinea was the target of an attempted coup in which Mark Thatcher was allegedly involved last year, and a group of mercenaries from South Africa is still in jail there. There was a brief military coup in Sao Tome in July 2003, and South Africa and Angola have both been keenly involved in seeking stability in the countries. The two countries are members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), dominated by Angola. Equatorial Guinea is currently training security forces in Sao Tome.

The US is also keenly involved in seeking stability in the region, which involves the maintenance of the regimes there though human rights organisations say that the use of oil revenues continues to benefit the tiny elites and does not filter down to the population.
Equatorial Guinea is Africa's third largest supplier of oil, and the US has concessions there -- including Halliburton (formerly US Vice President Dick Cheney's company). There have been persistent reports that the Pentagon wants to raise its military profile to ensure oil stability there, possibly with the establishment of naval facilities and training in Sao Tome. In 2002 Pentagon officials noted that military aid could be targeted specifically at protecting offshore oil facilities. From the late 1980s the US has had a coastal security programme for Africa aimed at helping countries patrol fishery zones.

The current security deal, signed on August 30, is aimed at controlling clandestine immigration and drug trafficking and guaranteeing the security of maritime and air traffic, according to a statement. The safety of the offshore oil rigs is of primary concern -- this aspect has been written specifically into anti-terrorism legislation in South Africa, perhaps after officials noted the commandeering of rigs in the Nigerian oilfields.
The deal was signed by Equatorial Guinea's minister for defence, Antonio Mve Nguema Mikwe and the minister for defence and law and order of Sao Tome and Principe, Oscar Sacramento Desousa.

Other Equatorial Guinea officials present at the signing ceremony were the secretary of state for defence, Santiago Maworo Nguema Ndo, the vice minister for national security, Manuel Nguema Mba and other senior defence officials.
On the Sao Tome and Principe side, there were the directors-general for national security, Jose Nicolas, domestic policy, Felix Berto and that of the director of cabinet of the minister for defence and law and order, Lucio Joaquim, among other officials.

Another new oil power -- Mauritania -- experienced a coup in July and according to observers the response has demonstrated that oil plus US security interests have overridden the African Union's policy on coups.
The overthrow of the president, Maaouiy Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, by a military junta passed almost without comment among Western observers, while the AU also quietly gave it a pass. The new junta had reassured the US that it would behave responsibly and back US anti-terrorism efforts in the region.

Despite the trumpeted AU policy against coups in Africa, the AU delegation to Nouakchott, led by Nigerian Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji, returned "reassured" by the military junta that democratic reforms would be undertaken within two years.
Mauritania's recently discovered oil reserves in the Chinguetti and Tiouf fields, which hold an estimated bn barrels of oil and 30-bn cm of natural gas. The commercial sale of these resources is scheduled for January next year. Soon after the coup, the US agreed to work with the junta to ensure that multiparty elections would be held.

Source: SouthScan
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