EGuinea opposition figure held in Chad on 'coup' charge

The arrest of Andres Esono Ondo has deepened concern that Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema seeks to crack down on dissenting voices.
The arrest of Andres Esono Ondo has deepened concern that Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema seeks to crack down on dissenting voices.
Image: 3dgenerator/ 123rf

Andres Esono Ondo, a leading Equatorial Guinea opposition figure, has been arrested in Chad on suspicion of preparing a coup, the oil-rich country's external security minister Juan Antonio Bibang Nchuchuma has said.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 76, has repeatedly accused people within Equatorial Guinea and elsewhere of seeking to overthrow him.

He is now Africa's longest-serving leader having himself seized power in a 1979 putsch.

Ondo was arrested on Thursday east of the Chadian capital N'Djamena, Nchuchuma said in an official note read on state media, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Saturday.

The trip by Ondo, leader of the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), "had for its sole objective the acquisition of arms and munitions and the recruitment of terrorists to commit a coup in Equatorial Guinea with foreign financing," it said.

Ondo was arrested in the Guera region, 500 kilometres (310 miles) from the Chadian capital "in the company of Saleh Kebzabo, leader of Chad's main opposition party," it added.

A diplomat in Equatorial Guinea, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP the government "wants to silence dissenting voices and keep the opposition on the back foot," noting that "these kinds of operations are common."

In 2015, Ondo was falsely accused of purchasing someone infected by the Ebola virus to transmit the deadly disease to Equatorial Guinea, where the football African Nations Cup final took place.

Meanwhile, a trial of 150 other alleged coup plotters was suspended in early April, a defence lawyer said.

Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's top oil producers but the bulk of the population of some 1.2 million lives in poverty. The country has witnessed several coups since independence from Spain in 1968.

Critics accuse Nguema of brutal repression, election fraud and corruption.

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