This sounds a bit like an oxymoron. Because it is.
If you’ve read the Equatorial Guinea profile in the travel section, you’ve been introduced to Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (and many of the things that both incredible and perplexing about this place). Obiang is the second president of Equatorial Guinea and is the longest serving president of any country in the world today. I stress the word president here because there have been longer serving heads of state under different titles or combinations of titles (such as being prime minister and then president), but Obiang takes the title for the longest term of any one president.
Obiang’s Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) dominates politics and often silences opposition. While he may hold the title president and represent a political party, he is more accurately described as a dictator.
Obiang’s path to the presidency was paved by his family’s ties to power. Several members of his extended family served in positions of political power, leading Obiang to take on positions in the military and the notorious Black Beach Prison. In 1979 Obiang overthrew his uncle, current president Francisco Macías, in a violent coup. Over the decades, he has been widely accused of human rights abuses and atrocities.
The story of Obiang does not end there though. He has been rumored to possess magical powers due to cannibalism and has inspired a cult following by manipulating the press and consolidating control for decades. These bizarre rumors may have actually been started as a means to bolster his carefully managed public image of absolute power.
His eldest son has been prosecuted by NGO groups such as Transparency International for money laundering, embezzlement, corruption, and more. A French court repossessed several of the presidential family’s assets, including a dozen of the most expensive street cars in the world and a six-story Paris mansion.
Over the years Obiang has gone about several interesting policy choices. One of the most interesting is his effort to move the capital city of Malabo on the island of Bioko to Oyala on the mainland. The endeavor has built a practically uninhabited city in the middle of the jungle.
In addition, the government built a resort neighborhood a few miles outside Malabo. Like the 5 star Grand Djibloho Hotel in Oyala, the Sipopo Resort also sits largely empty. The resort boasts a golf course, private beach, and 52 villas. Why 52 villas? There’s one for every African head of state, just in case they all visit at the same time (which they did one time for a conference, prompting the construction of the resort in the first place).
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Equatoguineans live in dire poverty. Equatorial Guinea is hardly the only country in the world to suffer from kleptocracy, but it is indeed one of the most severe cases.