In late May, New York Times published an article depicting the economic and political links between Washington and an otherwise not very well known Central African country by the name of Equatorial Guinea. Equatorial Guinea happens to be one of the wealthiest nations when it comes to oil reserves; but one of the poorest when considering income distribution; the article depicted America’s official and unofficial relationship with “one of the undisputed human rights global bad boys”, noting that American oil companies have billions invested there.
On the heels of the article, exiled Guinean writer and activist Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel penned an open letter to US President Barack Obama – a stoic and proud call to better understanding the world.
At the beginning of your term as President of the United States of America, you received the Nobel Peace Prize, which is in fact the highest achievement awarded to those who have stood out in the fight for a peaceful coexistence among men and women the world over. When the prize was to be awarded, those of us watching over humanitarian causes worldwide greatly reflected on the fact that this prize was being awarded to you before any error could occur that might tarnish you, and much before the accumulation of merits diverse from those already achieved in your previous work as a public figure dedicated to the people.
If you still do not know the profound reasons for which that prize was awarded to you, we must remind you that it is an acknowledgement of the fight for black people to gain human consideration from the white people that denied their condition, a longstanding fight achieved by men whose deepest desires were expressed by the pastor Martin Luther King in his dream, the dream of all the black people who fought along with him. Many years have passed Brother, and today we can say that not only are black people downtrodden by white people but that, based on a reality that is held by an axiom, the capacity of men to separate into oppressors and oppressed is infinite. A painful example of this axiom can be seen in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.
Brother Obama, the simple act of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize obliges you to recognize that in Guinea, many unjustifiable atrocities occur when all elements are considered. You should not ignore that a few years ago, seven bodies of black Africans were found in a dump in Bata without knowing any circumstances surrounding these deaths, how they met such a brutal end or what orders had been given to witnesses. It so happens that the people who spoke about this case were punished, proof that silence was imposed by the powers that be. These people were black Africans that crossed our borders in search of a better life. They might have found it had it not been for the imposition of a tragic destiny that led to such a macabre outcome. However, it will soon be clear that said tragic destiny was not by chance.
Your status as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient obliges you to recognize that the governing regime in Guinea uses adolescents in its security forces, a poor and unfortunate choice for their youth, where they are susceptible to being conditioned negatively due to the extreme nature of the pressure that they undergo and the strict discipline from Israeli instructors, citizens of a nation that is an ally of the one you govern. This can in fact affect the life path of an adolescent to, without any apparent reason, kill a citizen who argues with him for any trivial reason with a few bullets. And yes, this happens in our country, Brother Obama, without any war declared by any opposition. Witness accounts of the irrationality of these armed young men are numerous, and some of them have been included in a report that your emissaries should have brought to your attention.
Your position impedes you from being unaware that in Guinea a dictatorial clique is governing and not only do they keep their fellow citizens in poverty, they violate their rights and prevent them from gaining access to the simplest of freedoms. Your status as a Nobel Peace Prize recipient also hinders you from ignoring that this dictatorial clique has been in power for three decades and shows no interest of permitting even a minimal amount of political democracy.
If this disastrous situation appeals to your Nobel recipient status with the highest degree of humanity, rest assured that it should also count on the complicity of the citizens and institutions of your country, a country which is the leading political power, as well as on economic, political and strategic aspects. If we were contented with your inaction because we believed that you hadn’t taken part in our painful history, then it is even more difficult for us to acknowledge that your hands are in the tragic history of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.
If this should be, we will tell you that your silence has nothing to do with the possibility to control the steady flow of hydrocarbons that flows beneath our land. It is a fallacy that cannot be justified. In other words, you cannot be silent about what is happening in Guinea because you are taking advantage of our petroleum. That is fallacy spread with hidden interests. If the most powerful nation in the world hides while taking advantage of the natural resources of a tiny African nation in order to allow the ruling class to subjugate its people and keep them in a perennial state of irrationality, then we have to create public awareness concerning the mendacity of this reality. It is well known that one of the allies of the leading world power, Israel, not only partakes in the preparation of the previously mentioned elite security forces in Guinea but also provides armaments to our country while pocketing heavily at the cost of our citizens misery. All this in a country where there is no need for such military equipment unless used by the ruling members for robbery and pillaging, who might fear that justice will be upheld and that they would henceforth have to pay for their crimes.
Brother Obama, the support that Teodoro Obiang receives is not for payments to make the most of economic relations, Guinean petroleum is not patrimony of the Obiang family. If you still cannot understand the purpose of the elite security forces, we will publicly reveal the fact that these cronies can be beaten with the slightest military gesture from the army of the country that you govern. What is the point of hiding behind false reasons to support the wickedness committed in Guinea if the armed forces of your country protect them? What is the point, Brother Obama, if with the money you pay to our president you get a larger portion which is then destined annually to education with the aim of improving your image over that which you have from confiscating our lives? This is what can be read nowadays, Brother Obama, in the mass media in your country. There is no excuse.
I call you Brother, Mr. Obama, because there is African blood running through your veins and perhaps sister blood running through the veins of many citizens of Equatorial Guinea. I must also say Mr. Obama that black people already paid for the industrial wealth and well-being of the United States of America with their lives. We no longer have any debts to settle. We gave our painful offering to the well-being of white people when our ancestors were captured to be brought to an unknown destiny. As it is said in biblical terms, we don’t have another cheek to turn.
Equatorial Guinea is a small country, insignificant with respect to the political and geostrategic objectives of the world, but our little lives should not be lived by others in our name. We want, in this moment while we can, to find the ways to make our tiny little place on earth liveable. We will not object to the legality of the millions of dollars that our president has in your banks nor will it be possible for the enormous payout for foreign goods to be recovered and returned to our country. However, Brother Obama, even more painful than this, is that you should be a witness of our painful history and continue to believe that the prize given to you is to please those who write History.
Our country is small and its voice is weak, a voice that I have on various occasions attempted to make heard. However, if I were to lose my life while attempting to make the voice of our country heard, I would do so with the conviction that I never asked for the impossible or anything that couldn’t be achieved by the community of men and women that are witnessing our tragic existence.
Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel, Barcelona, June 8, 2011