By Michel ArseneaultPosted on 05-08-2019Modified on 05-08-2019 at 07:18
Spain, the first country to recognize the junta that seized power in Malabo on 3 August 1979, knew that soldiers were preparing to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea. The Spanish government had even welcomed the family of the lieutenant-colonel forty-eight hours before the coup, said a telegram from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently declassified.
In his first press conference after the coup, Lieutenant-Colonel Teodoro Obiang Nguema says he has not received any foreign aid. Spain was, however, aware of the preparations for the coup. A few days after the overthrow of President Macías, the Spanish Foreign Ministry says it has been informed of " movements of a military nature " in former Spanish Guinea " a while " before.
How long exactly? The French ambassador to Malabo, Hubert Cornet, notes that Teodoro Obiang sent his wife and four children to Madrid two days before the coup of August 3, 1979. Teodoro Obiang said he had perfected the Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez and King Juan Carlos, " several days " before his putsch. In his autobiography, Mi vida por mi pueblo ( My life for people ), published in 2002, Obiang omits to state that he then asked for military aid from Spain - a " protection force " that Madrid refused him , according to the journalist Juan Maria Calvo Roy, author of Guinea Ecuatorial : the lost ocasion (Sial Pigmalion) .
" The sending of troops was discussed between Adolfo Suarez and the socialist opposition ," he told RFI. " But the Socialists refused to give the green light because a Spanish intervention seemed too" neocolonialist ". "
Given the refusal of Spain, the leader of the putschists then turns to Morocco, on the advice of President Omar Bongo of Gabon. " Bongo said to Obiang : Moroccans speak Spanish, you will get along ," said Juan Maria Calvo Roy.
Hassan II will hasten to send a praetorian guard of 80 people to protect Teodoro Obiang and his Supreme Military Council, a Moroccan contingent that will not leave Equatorial Guinea until three decades later. The new master of Malabo will soon recognize in Rabat the "absolute right" to safeguard its territorial integrity. Unlike Francisco Macías, who supported the Saharawi Republic of the Polisario Front.
The insurgents will do everything in their power to revive the Madrid-Malabo relations, execrable under Macías, who had driven out Catholic missionaries and accused Spain of supporting the secessionist movement among the Bubi people of the island of Bioko, at the beginning of the The last remaining Spanish nationals, school teachers and airplane pilots of the Equatorial Guinean national airline, had been forced to flee as well. Settler families, including large plantation owners, had long since left.
A " mother-nation " reconnects with its former colony
In the mail sent to king Juan Carlos even before the pronunciamiento , Teodoro Obiang expressed his desire to tighten the bonds with the kingdom. Madrid will not turn a deaf ear. On 6 August 1979, Spanish state radio, Radio Nacional, announced that a Spanish mission would visit Malabo.
The insurgents also want to reconnect with Madrid. In front of 5,000 people gathered at the stadium of Malabo on the occasion of the National Day (October 12, 1979), President Obiang - invested two days before - will say all the good he thinks of Spain, "our mother" , the "mother-nation". A few months before, his predecessor had had the public chant anti-Spanish slogans at the same stadium. In 1976, Francisco Macías had even shot opponents.
The new junta will soon announce that the plantations confiscated from their Spanish landowners will be returned to them and that the fishing agreement with the Soviet Union, a superpower that arouses appalling in a capital where fish is almost impossible to find, will be renegotiated with ... 'Spain. To seal this reunion, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will travel to Malabo four months later with a suite of 150 people.
Ancient Spanish Guinea is no longer the taboo subject that it was under Franco. At the time, Madrid was censoring all the information about his colony. This censorship will continue until 1976, that is to say, eight years after the victory of the "yes" in the referendum on independence. But in 1979, Equatorial Guinea has the wind in its sails in Madrid. The spectacular cooperation program launched by Spain, which allows it to place advisers in strategic ministries in Malabo, will, however, suffer equally spectacular failures, according to the journalist Juan María Calvo Roy, posted in Equatorial Guinea at the beginning of the years. 1980.
France on the lookout
If Spain is in pole position , France also hopes to take advantage of the coup to advance its pawns. At first, she remains cautious. The Equatorial Guinea of former President Macias has blurred the cards. In theory, the country is not aligned, not only with the USSR, but also with China and North Korea. Paris seeks to understand the political orientations of the new strongman, which seem ambiguous, especially since his government includes " both victims and accomplices of the old regime, " says a note to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs , Jean François-Poncet.
Paris finally concludes that the coup d'etat " of freedom " bears the mark of economic liberalism, which we are pleased at the Quai d'Orsay. A rapprochement Paris-Malabo will be confirmed from the 1980s with the adoption of the CFA franc, membership of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF) and participation in the summits France-Africa. Gabon and Cameroon, two French-speaking countries that were wary of Francisco Macias when he was reaching out to Moscow, also welcome the coming to power of the insurgents, and these are not the only ones.
A few weeks before the fall of the "One Miracle", the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was generally reluctant to criticize African heads of state, condemned Francisco Macías at his Monrovia summit. She had done so - and this is no coincidence - at the instigation of President Godfrey Binaisa, who had just succeeded Idi Amin Dada in Uganda. He too, like Macías, like Bokassa, had gone too far. The OAU was certainly not going to invite Teodoro Obiang to overthrow its bulky predecessor but ...
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► To be continued: Equatorial Guinea: ill-gotten power over ill-gotten gains
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