Ramblings & ephemera

A coup in Equatorial Guinea for fun

From Laura Miller’s “Rent-a-coup” (Salon: 17 August 2006):

In March 2004, a group of men with a hired army of about 70 mercenary soldiers set out to topple the government of the tiny West African nation of Equatorial Guinea and install a new one. Ostensibly led by a political opposition leader but actually controlled by the white mercenary officers, this new regime would plunder the recently discovered oil wealth of Equatorial Guinea, enriching the coup’s architects by billions of dollars.

The Wonga Coup never came off, but not because of the kind of double-crossing anticipated in that early planning document. … One of the strangest aspects of the story is that the Wonga Coup nearly replicated an earlier failed attempt to take over Equatorial Guinea in 1973. And that coup had since been fictionalized in a bestselling book, popular with the mercenary crowd, by Frederick Forsyth, “The Dogs of War.” A case of life imitating art imitating life? The truth is even more bizarrely convoluted: Roberts has found evidence that Forsyth himself financed the 1973 coup. (And Forsyth has more or less admitted as much.)

The 2004 coup plotters made noises about installing a better leader, but their real motives were “wonga” — British slang for money — and something less tangible. “It’s fun,” said one observer. “Some of the guys did it for kicks, because life is boring.” …

Arrayed against rent-a-coup schemers like Mann is a breed that Roberts calls the “rag-and-bone intelligence dealer,” a kind of freelance spy who “darts about Africa with a laptop and satellite phone, lingering in hotel bars, picking up scraps of information where he can, selling them to willing buyers, whether corporate or government. The more sophisticated use electronic, online or other surveillance.”

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