Teodoro Obiang Nguema set to become the new African Union Chairman

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema

ADDIS ABABA, January 28, 2011 (AFP) – Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has been lined up to assume the revolving chairmanship of the African Union at a summit this weekend, a senior AU source told AFP on Friday. “It’s established, unless something really out of the ordinary happens at the last minute, that Equatorial Guinea will get the presidency,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Under the system of the presidency that rotates between the regions, it’s central Africa’s turn this year.” The presidency of the AU rotates between the continent’s five sub-regions.

The candidature of a given country must be approved by the other nations in its region. The other AU members AU simply sign off on the region’s decision. “The countries of central Africa have reached a consensus. The designation of Equatorial Guinea is established. It’s definite except if something unexpected happens at the last minute,” added the source. “As a general rule the process doesn’t cause any problems and it’s all done by consensus.” The outgoing chairman, Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika, succeeded Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi. Obiang’s expected take-over of the AU presidency appears to sit oddly with this week’s comments by the bloc’s commission chair Jean Ping that the January 30 to 31 summit will have “crucial importance” given rising political turmoil in the continent.

Ping said the meeting comes at a time when “matters of law, unconstitutional power take-over, abuse of the constitution, corruption and abuse of power by the state are threatening peace and stability in the continent.” Obiang himself seized power from his own uncle in a 1979 coup and then had him shot. He has since ruled the central African state, the continent’s third oil exporter, with an iron fist. The corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Equatorial Guinea 168th out of 180 countries in its annual corruption perception index, and a US Senate report has accused Obiang of embezzling state funds. In October, the UN cultural organisation UNESCO suspended a science prize named after Obiang, following anti-graft campaigners’ strong opposition and criticism of the president’s record.

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