Back in 2004, a small group of mercenaries were arrested in Zimbabwe, where they had stopped to buy weapons and were allegedly en route to overthrow the vile Obiang dictatorship in nearby Equatorial Guinea. Personally I wish the so-called Wonga Coup had succeeded because I would love to see Equatorial Guinea’s military leader, Teodoro Obiang, tossed onto the ash heap of history and painfully executed for his crimes, as he killed his ghastly, lunatic predecessor and uncle.
Unfortunately the coup — and that’s not really what it was; surprise, the global media got it wrong! — failed, largely because the action was led by a blundering numbskull and prevaricator named Simon Mann. This unfortunate sad sack, who was tortured by Obiang at the hideous Black Beach prison, has recently been privately boasting to friends that he planned the recent coup against Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe has a heroic past but he belongs on the ash heap of history, too, though I hope he lives out his days in peace because he built up plenty of karma credits for leading the liberation struggle against the white government of Rhodesia.
And whether Mann’s boasts are true or not, the coup against Mugabe isn’t quite a coup at this point either — though he did just resign — and the leaders of it are looking like stupid clowns. So perhaps for once Mann may be telling the truth when he claims to have been involved. (Obiang and Mugabe have the ignoble distinction of being Africa’s two longest ruling leaders.)
I’ve written about Equatorial Guinea a lot, in 2002 for the first time, after I traveled to the country. During that trip, I met Severo Moto, a long exiled opposition leader, in Madrid. Moto is not a perfect human being but he would have been far preferable to Obiang, and in 2004 Mann was apparently planning to escort him back to Equatorial Guinea and protect him with weapons purchased in Zimbabwe.
It wasn’t quite coup, but it was a threat to Obiang. But it never really got started because Mann and other coup plotters blabbed all over the place and were arrested in Zimbabwe while trying to buy arms for the mission. Some of the plotters were tortured in Zimbabwe before being convicted for attempting to illegally purchase weapons and then sent on to be tortured more in Equatorial Guinea.
“The incident received international media attention after the reported involvement of Sir Mark Thatcher in funding the coup, for which he was convicted and fined in South Africa,” says Wikipedia. Mann spent years in jail and then was released, at which point, for some time, he rather bizarrely began publicly praising the Obiang regime.
Even more bizarrely, and evilly, he also testified last year in favor of Teodorin Obiang, the deranged, coke-snorting son of the dictator, at his trial in France for kleptocracy. Mann told the court that the trial was political and that all of the evidence was tainted.
(Mann also testified that American oligarch George Soros was behind the “coup.” I should note here that I have received foundation support from Soros in the past and it wouldn’t surprise me if that was true.)
Mind you, authorities on multiple continents have amassed mountains of evidence showing Teodorin (and his papa, the official dictator) has stolen billions in oil revenues from the treasury of the impoverished West African country. In the United States — where Democratic and Republican administrations have quietly embraced Obiang because American oil companies, led by ExxonMobil, have vast investments in Equatorial Guinea — Teodorin’s $30 million Malibu estate was seized, along with other property, in a massive asset forfeiture case brought by the Justice Department.
(Washington Babylon will have more on this down the road, including previously unreported information about how Justice botched bringing a far bigger and precedent-setting case.)
Anyway, at one point — when in prison in Zimbabwe — Mann swore in a deposition that he had been tortured by Mugabe’s security forces and that was the only reason he had previously and falsely claimed he had attempted a coup against Obiang. Yet even Mugabe’s government was never able to find evidence that he was planning a coup, only that he had sought to buy weapons. Mugabe reportedly got paid $10 million by Obiang to ship Mann out — the same day that his trial ended — to Equatorial Guinea.
After being released from prison in Equatorial Guinea and returning home to the United Kingdom, Mann has at times claimed that there had been a coup attempt, funded by British financiers, including Mark Thatcher, and at times claimed that there had never been a coup attempt.
As to the “coup” in Zimbabwe, Mann has been bragging that he got involved to get revenge on Mugabe for having him arrested and tortured back in 2004. But Mann, as noted, has a questionable relationship with the truth so there’s no way of knowing whether this reflects reality or not.
It’s sad that Mann was tortured and God only knows how badly it scrambled his brains, but he is not a reliable source, about Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea or anything else.