Equatorial Guinea‘s dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is in many ways, just like any other authoritarian leader prolonging his stay in power and maintaining an unchallengeable iron fist over his people.
But Mbasogo is also very different, in that he is suspected by people home and abroad of being a cannibal. Strange and bizarre as this accusation is, it seems to be held with some sense of certainty in spite of its unfoundedness.
For anyone looking, beliefs, discussions and accusations bordering on cannibalism in politics are surprisingly common in post-colonial African political history. The notorious Idi Amin of Uganda refused to reject criticisms that described him as a cannibal.
More about this
In Liberia, warlords who fought in the second and third civil wars often boasted of consuming the flesh of their enemies as a metaphysical rite of domination and supremacy. In central and east Africa, politicians are known to pay visits to witchdoctors to eat human flesh, especially the flesh of a person with albinism, for good luck in elections.
But when and how did the stories of Mbasogo’s supposed cannibalism begin? And how has it been popularized into legitimacy?
Severo Moto, who was until recently the head of Equatorial Guinea’s most formidable opposition, the Progress Party, said in a 2004 interview with a Spanish radio station that President Mbasogo “just devoured a police commissioner”.
“I say devoured because this commissioner was buried without the testicles and the brain. “[He] wants me to go back to Guinea … [so he can] eat my testicles,” Moto continued, offering no proof whatsoever of his accusation.
After Moto’s, other accusers were quoted in Western media with similar accounts of frightening activities by Mbasogo. They said he believed he had to have the flesh of these slain individuals in order to boost his sexual prowess and prolong his life.
President Mbasogo has not always been a global media-ensured international pariah. Frankly, there are some who may argue that he still is not, in spite of numerous accusations of corruption and anti-democratic activities in Equatorial Guinea.
After seizing power in a bloody coup in 1979, Mbasogo showed himself amenable to the interests of Western money by liberalizing oil exploration and extraction in his country. That alone seems to have been enough to force the likes of France and the United States to look the other way when Mbasogo treated his people with the heavy-handedness he is accused of.
At the turn of this century, however, the media began to pay attention to Equatorial Guinea. The claims made in the opposition leader’s 2004 interview then found fertile grounds – the loudest voices and willing ears.
That is not to say President Mbasogo is spotless; Transparency International once said his country was “too opaque” to be measured for appropriate governance. By sheer force, he has kept the lights out on his four decades-long rule and shut down dissent.
It would appear staying in the darkness for so long means Mbasogo has come to resemble all that which is imaginably evil.