Welcome to Sipopo. This Orwellian complex, grafted on to the capital, Malabo, is the face Equatorial Guinea wishes to present to the world. Obiang, now the longest-serving ruler in Africa and a man accused of presiding over one of the world’s most corrupt, kleptocratic and repressive governments, spent more than half a billion pounds creating it as part of his drive to rebrand his regime. It is small change for a man alleged to pocket £40m a day in energy revenues; his tiny country is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil producer.
It is like something out of The Truman Show, one of many illusions in a land of artifice. Sipopo cost four times the annual education budget in what is perhaps the planet’s most unequal society, a country where per-capita wealth exceeds Britain but three-quarters of its 675,000 citizens live on less than a dollar a day. Infant mortality rates are among the worst in the world, but that spanking-new hospital, said one doctor, has no patients most of the time. Ordinary people, it turns out, are barred from the area.
Freedom House, the respected US think tank, places Equatorial Guinea alongside Burma, North Korea and Somalia on its list of the world’s worst regimes, a ruthless one-party state where elections are stolen, opponents jailed and state coffers looted, control of daily life is all-pervasive and the government is accused of grotesque human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings.
Read the full article, The strange and evil world of Equatorial Guinea, by Ian Birell here.