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Will the plundering of wealth by African leaders ever stop?

The recent reports on the obscene amounts of ill-gotten wealth in the hands of Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, makes one despair over the many leaders who enrich themselves at the cost of their country and its people.

Sometimes it feels as if the plundering of wealth by African leaders might never stop. Against the background of historic examples such as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko, who plundered close to US$5 billion, and Nigeria’s military dictator General Sani Abacha, who over a period of five years plundered an estimated US$4,3 billion, it is disheartening to note that the cycle continues in 2018.

The Brazilian media recently reported that when Equatorial Guinea’s vice president, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, who is the son of Africa’s longest-serving ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, flew to Brazil on an official plane, the delegation’s 19 bags were searched by border police. Cash to the value of US$1,4 million and about 20 wristwatches valued at US$15 million was found in their possession. The Embassy of Equatorial Guinea said that Teodoro Mangue had travelled to Brazil for medical treatment.

These activities are reminiscent of Central Africa Republic’s Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who spent US$22 million on his coronation and had 24 000 bottles of Moët & Chandon, 4 000 bottles of Château Mouton-Rothschild and Château Lafite-Rothschild and 60 Mercedes Benz cars shipped in from Germany via Cameroon.

Read: Lessons from Togo to African leaders overstaying their welcome

In October last year, Teodoro Mangue was sentenced to a suspended three-year jail term by a French court for plundering money. Mangue is the eldest son of President Obiang, who has been in power for 38 years. Mangue’s US$125 million mansion near the Champs-Elysees was one of the assets that the court ruled should be confiscated. The US and France have confiscated many of his properties, including a fleet of luxury cars.

Read: Corruption and looting of resources by African leaders, a bane to society

In stark contrast to Mangue’s spending, the government of Equatorial Guinea last month imposed a travel ban on its members of parliament, who would now only be allowed to travel with permission from Mangue. The decision was said to have been made on the grounds of ‘national interest’. There has been speculation, however, that the decision was made in response to an attempted coup last year.

Equatorial Guinea is rich in oil, but the wealth of the country, as is the case in many other African countries, has not translated into better living conditions or social amenities for the general populace. Surely the people of Africa deserve better leaders.

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