- This week it was made official; Zimbabwe finally had achieved petrol deliveries from Equatorial Guinea. The two dictatorships have come closer over the last year, struggling together against coups and foreign interference. For Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who observes a crumbling economy and chronic fuel shortages, the deal with Equatorial Guinea could save his grip on power.
Zimbabwean state-controlled media this week confirmed that an energy trading agreement between the two countries finally had been signed. Such a deal had been expected as Equatoguinean Dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema was in an official visit to Zimbabwe in March, but no such declarations were made during the visit.
According to an announcement made on Zimbabwean radio earlier this week, a "purely commercial" energy trading agreement had now been signed with the government of Equatorial Guinea. The radio station insisted that these energy resources were "to be bought and sold at market rates" on the Zimbabwean market, quoting the Harare government.
If this would have been the fact, Equatorial Guinea had been a very unlikely partner for Zimbabwe, as both countries lack facilities to refine crude oil. Zimbabwe indeed has found it increasingly difficult to be able to buy petrol even from old friends such as Libya and South Africa. The reason is quite obvious as the country has no foreign exchange to pay for its oil imports.
It is therefore most likely that President Mugabe found a way to persuade his Equatoguinean counterpart to grant Zimbabwe a credit to be able to by fuel "at market rates". President Obiang cannot expect that Zimbabwe we be able to pay down on this credit.
While a Zimbabwe suffering from fuel shortages has obvious interests in oil producing Equatorial Guinea, President Obiang also has personal interests to defend in Zimbabwe. Equatorial Guinea is still asking for the extradition of the British citizen Simon Mann, who was caught with arms and "mercenaries" at Harare airport, heading for Malabo, the Equatoguinean capital, allegedly to assist in a coup that was under preparation.
During President Obiang's official visit to Harare in March, both the issues of Mr Mann and a possible fuel supply deal were discussed by the two dictators, who had little contact before the alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea. No deal was reached - or at least not announced - during that visit.
While Zimbabwean authorities this week wanted to play down any possible links between an extradition of Mr Mann and the energy deal, the Equatoguinean Attorney General, José Olo Obono, already three weeks ago publicly claimed that Zimbabwe had agreed to hand Mr Mann over to Malabo. An extradition was to be effectuated by July, Mr Obono said, but this was denied by his Zimbabwean counterpart.
Extraditions to Equatorial Guinea are avoided by governments all over the world given the national judiciary's total dependency on President Obiang and his family. Equatoguinean detention centres are well known to make systematic use of torture to extract "confessions", which later are used in court to hand down death sentences or long prison sentences. Mortality rates in Equatorial Guinea's infamous prisons and detention centres are extremely high.
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