Equatorial Guinea is one of the world's wealthier nations, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) greater than that of Italy, South Korea, or Saudi Arabia. Yet the country’s citizens live in desperate poverty, with over 60 percent struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. Despite abundant natural resources—especially oil and gas—and the billions of dollars these resources bring in, the country is marked by chronic hunger, a crumbling education system, frequent blackouts, poor sanitation, and disease. This chasm between the country's wealth and the poverty of its people raises a basic question: if money from the sale of Equatorial Guinea’s natural resources is not benefiting its citizens, where is it going?
The Open Society Justice Initiative is seeking to answer this question by investigating corruption at the highest levels of Equatoguinean government and society. The Justice Initiative is working with two other human rights groups, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España in Spain, and EG Justice in the U.S., to pursue remedies for the resource-related corruption wracking Equatorial Guinea.
These efforts have launched a criminal investigation in Spain into alleged money-laundering perpetrated by eleven family relatives and other close associates of Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. The project has also filed a complaint with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights accusing Obiang and his family members and cronies of massive “spoliation"—the theft of natural resources and attendant wealth from the people to whom they should belong.
This paper briefly examines government corruption in Equatorial Guinea, how it works, and the price paid by the country’s citizens. It is intended to provide background information for lawyers, human rights advocates, and journalists interested in corruption and its consequences in Equatorial Guinea.