"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


reading for "fun"

The last non-textbook, full-service bookstore on the edge of our campus is going out of business. I'd never been in there until a couple of weeks ago, when I stopped by after class to take advantage of their 50% off clearance sale. We won't get in to a discussion of how heavy my bag was or how much I spent, but let's just say that it was a very productive half hour and leave it at that.

One of the books I scored is Adam Roberts' The Wonga Coup, the story of the failed coup attempt of 2004 that involved (one way or another) Afrikaner mercenaries, the government of Zimbabwe, and Margaret Thatcher's son Mark.

I am ridiculously excited to have a copy of this book, especially for half price. That's because I've been marginally obsessed with Equatorial Guinea for about ten years now, when I had to read Robert Klitgaard's Tropical Gangsters, the only other book of any substance that anyone had written on the tiny African state. To be more accurate, the Klitgaard book was assigned for my African Economic Development class, which was cancelled on the first day after we'd all bought the books because the professor's mother became ill and he went back to Ghana to take care of her. Of course I read it anyway. Who wouldn't?

The summer after that, I interned at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, which also serves as the U.S. Embassy for Equatorial Guinea. My boss kept promising me a trip there, but I didn't have a visa or orders that allowed it, and time was short, and I'd've had to have traded a trip to Italy at the end of the summer for a week in EG, and on and on and on. It continues to be my dream to get to EG, and I am unspeakably jealous of Steve Not the Lawyer, who got to spend weeks on end being bored to death in Malabo while translating contracts for the oil people. Equatorial Guinea, you see, produces about a barrel of oil per day per each person in the total population. That's some serious oil.

I have seen Equatorial Guinea; Bioko Island, on which the bulk of the population lives, sits in the Gulf of Guinea just offshore from Douala, Cameroon's commercial hub.

But I've never been there, which is too bad, because crazy things are always happening in tiny, oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. We're talking about a place where Exxon/Mobil has built a parallel universe for its American employees. They fly in Dr. Pepper and Fritos into their gated community from Houston each week. It's Sugarland without the fundamentalism.

In the latest crazy news to come from EG, it appears that Tuesday an armed group may or may not have attempted a coup against the country's president when it attacked the presidential palace. EG's ambassador to London says the Nigerian militant group MEND are responsible, but also that there wasn't a coup. MEND usually only operate in southern Nigeria, but they've been harassing ships near Cameroon lately, so who knows? What is for sure is that Equatorial Guinea doesn't stop. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some very exciting reading to do.


Blogger Amy said...

Another bookstore going out of business, eh? How depressing. Enjoy your read!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 9:33:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am fascinated by EG as it's the only sub-Saharan African country that speaks Spanish. The Mexican denomination I work with (Fe, Esperanza y Amor) has a church there and so there's been some interchange of resources and people over the past decade. Thanks for the book recommendation ("Tropical Gangsters")!

I hope you are eventually able to visit EG!

Greg in Mexico

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 9:55:00 AM

Anonymous kirstin said...

i taught my first year spanish kids in idaho that spanish is spoken in EG. they totally did not care. i think it's cool, too! i didn't know there were other fascinating things about it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:36:00 AM

Blogger Gary Snowden said...

Some of my former students from the seminary in Buenos Aires went to serve as missionaries in EG, with the benefit of it being a Spanish-speaking country a major plus for them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 3:43:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I love that we all have so many EG connections! Who'd've thought??

Greg, I'll have to get info on the connection from you before I go. And one day, I will go. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 3:58:00 PM


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