MALABO, January 31, 2011 (AFP) – Equatorial Guinea’s main opposition leader Monday slammed the appointment of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as the African Union’s new chairman. “The African Union doesn’t care about what the people of Equatorial Guinea are going through,” Placido Mico, head of the Convergence for Social Democracy, told AFP. “There is no liberty in his country, no freedom of the press, no free associations, human rights are violated, corruption is rife and the people live in misery,” he charged. Meanwhile a handful of Obiang’s associates do what they like with Equatorial Guinea’s oil wealth, he added.
Observers have criticised Obiang’s AU presidency, citing his poor human rights record at home which they say stands at odds with the democracy aspirations of the 53-member pan-African bloc. Nguema took power in a 1979 coup and has ruled the former Spanish colony with an iron fist. In his acceptance speech Sunday he said, “The concept of democracy, human rights and good governance are not new to Africa, but they should be adapted to the African culture.” Mico claimed Obiang owed his appointment to “his generosity and material and financial aid to other heads of state.”
The African Union’s presidency rotates among heads of state and government for a term of one year and alternates 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 simply sign off on the region’s decision. The holder of the post does not however have much sway on the bloc’s policies, with the most important decisions made by heads of state and government of its member nations.
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