WTF Wednesday, 12/19/2012

I’m headed out of town for the holidays tomorrow, so here’s a supersize dose of absurdity to tide you over until 2013:

  • Apparently half of Africa fell for a spoof article reporting Mike Tyson’s sex change surgery and subsequent adoption of the name “Michelle.” Because excessive lactation totally seems like a plausible explanation for the 1996 loss to Holyfield… (h/t Ben in Lusaka)
  • The Teletubbies will begin airing in Burma in January. Call me crazy, but this does not seem like a great way to incentivize other authoritarian regimes to liberalize.
  • Current longest-serving-African-dictator Teodor Obiang is building a shiny new capital city deep in the jungles of Equatorial Guinea, where he won’t have to worry about sea invasions. (But he will have a 6-lane highway and a golf course.) The government plans to drag approximately 1/3 of EG’s 700,000 inhabitants along with it when it moves into Oyala in 2020.

WTF Friday (Should I Just Change it to Saturday?), 2/26/2011

This one had to sting a little bit. Just when you think you know who your friends are…

Has Gaddafi ever heard of the 60s? Of course the protesters are on hallucinogenic drugs!

FP this week had a lifestyle slide show for Equatorial Guinea’s first son, Teodorin Obiang. He dated Eve?!? Damn, I guess “Love is Blind” to nepotism, human rights abuses, and questionable spending. Well, she’s not the only one

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, vol. II

This is a list of UNESCO prizes. See if you can spot the one that just doesn’t belong:


Hattip to alert reader Julie McCarthy. (Check out Texas in Africa and Turtle Bay for more detailed coverage.)

Did Bibi Get the "Treatment Reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea" from Obama? He Wishes.

The UK Telegraph brings news of a “fresh low in US-Israeli relations” after President Obama “snubbed” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his recent visit to the White House.

The Telegraph breathlessly reports that Obama and his pals gave the Israeli delegation the full Mean Girls treatment: After Bibi refused to negotiate on a list of 13 demands from the Obama administration, the president ditched him and went upstairs to eat dinner with Michelle and their daughters. The White House also barred photographers from the meeting, and refused to issue a joint statement when it ended. Ooh, snap!

According to the Telegraph, Israeli Newspaper Maariv reported that “There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage,” and “Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”

Um, Maariv? This is kind of awkward, because we know you think that the “treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea” must be about as bad as it gets. But as it turns out, last time Equatorial Guinea’s President Obiang met with Obama, cameras were allowed:

“President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York with H.E. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, and his wife, Mrs. Constancia Mangue de Obiang, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009.” (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) (via the White House Flickr Feed.)

Breaking News: Simon Mann Released

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that Simon Mann and four of the other mercenaries convicted of plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea were freed today. Mann was sentenced last year to 34 years in the notorious Black Beach prison.

The Guardian, which describes Mann as “the Old Etonian mercenary,” reports that Mann is being pardoned in part due to his need for medical treatment and has 24 hrs to leave the country

Exciting TV Viewing Opportunity

Chris Blattman recently reviewed Nicholas Shaxson’s fascinating book “Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil.” His post reminded me how much I enjoyed Shaxson’s coverage of the 2004 attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea (I blogged last year’s trial of alleged mastermind Simon Mann here) and prompted me to record PBS’s Wide Angle episode about it. It’s called “Once Upon a Coup” and is available in its entirety here.

The details of the coup attempt remain shockingly ludicrous no matter how many times you hear them and the program includes the added entertainment of (1) EG President Obiang explaining that corruption is a purely European concept that holds no meaning for Africans, and (2) footage of the President of Riggs Bank being harangued by US Senator Carl Levin for kissing Obiang’s ass. It’s also chock full of (often hilariously frank – he asks us to forgive his use of the term “poncing around”) commentary from Simon Mann himself, who seems to be surviving Black Beach prison impressively well.

Check it out: Once Upon a Coup

Sucks To Be You, Simon Mann

I was on vacation last week and missed the opportunity to liveblog (or Time-Delay BlogTM) British gun-for-hire Simon Mann’s trial on charges arising out of a 2004 abortive coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.

I’m going to write about it now though, because E.G. president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is by far my favorite overlooked crazy-ass-dictator, and I think he deserves more media attention. He made it to #13 on Parade Magazine’s “World’s Worst Dictators” list this year, but I feel like a guy who has publicly proclaimed himself a god with accompanying divine right to kill whomever he wants should at least clear the top 10.

Anyway, last Monday a court in Equatorial Guinea sentenced Simon Mann to 34 years in jail for his role in the World’s Most Ill-Conceived Coup Attempt on Record. He, along with roughly 70 other foreign nationals, had been arrested in the Harare (Zimbabwe) airport on March 7, 2004 and accused of being mercenaries on their way to E.G. to overthrow Obiang’s government.

It later transpired that in the first week of March Spain had decided that a whole bunch of their warships were extremely bored and needed a change of scenery and moved them to a new location just off the coast of E.G. And, as it happened, an unusual number of exiled Equatorial Guineans seem to have been spotted hanging around the State Department building in Washington D.C. during the end of 2003/beginning of 2004. Unfortunately for Mann, though, it turned out that, despite these coincidences, the Whole Thing Was Definitely Mann’s Idea and No One Else Was Involved.

Mann was sentenced to 4 years of jail time in Zimbabwe for unlawful helicopter purchase. (For serious.) He was released after 3 years on good behavior, which included implicating Mark Thatcher, son of the Iron Lady herself, as a major financial backer of the coup plot. Thatcher eventually pled down to house arrest for his “unwitting” involvement. (Does anyone else think this sounds like a corollary to that old joke about the difference between heaven and hell? You know, in heaven the French are the chefs and the Germans organize everything, but in hell the British and Spanish plan the coups??)

In May of 2007, Zimbabwean officials agreed to extradite Mann to E.G. in exchange for (1) a promise to waive the death penalty; and (2) a generous helping of the sweet light crude that E.G. produces at a rate of half a million barrels per day.

Nobody seems to think Mann will actually serve out his prison term. -Not least because it would be a rare feat for anyone to survive 34 years in Black Beach prison, which is known for militant neglect of prisoners’ health. Meanwhile, Obiang has recently installed a new government, having decided that his feelings were too hurt by the old government’s potential involvement in the coup attempt to keep it around. He also announced that he definitely, absolutely, probably, maybe plans to give up power one of these days, he just can’t say for sure exactly when.