The West African state of Equatorial Guinea said Wednesday it had thwarted “a coup” in late December mounted by mercenaries who sought to attack President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader.
In a statement read on public radio, Security Minister Nicolas Obama Nchama said: “Mercenaries… were recruited by Equatorial Guinean militants from certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers.”
The plot had been prevented thanks to an operation carried out “in collaboration with the Cameroon security services”, he said.
The announcement came after Cameroon on December 27 arrested 38 heavily-armed men on the border with the tiny state.
Two days later, Equitorial Guinea’s ambassador to France, Miguel Oyono Ndong Mifumu, referred to the incident as an “invasion and destabilisation attempt”. The suspects, taken into custody in a bus on the border, had rocket launchers, rifles and a stockpile of ammunition, according to his office.
On Saturday, the 75-year-old Obiang said “a war” was being prepared against his regime, “because they say I have spent a lot of time in power”.
Obiang has been president for more than 38 years. He took power in a coup on August 3, 1979, ousting his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was shot by firing squad. He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016.