Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 4489 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YI YM YE

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09MALABO48, EQUATORIAL GUINEA RAW, PAPER 6: REFINING OUR APPROACH

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09MALABO48.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MALABO48 2009-05-21 17:05 2011-02-10 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Malabo
VZCZCXRO0266
OO RUEHMA
DE RUEHMA #0048/01 1411729
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211729Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY MALABO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0499
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE IMMEDIATE 0292
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0124
RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 0083
RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE IMMEDIATE 0031
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RUEHMA/AMEMBASSY MALABO 0570
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MALABO 000048 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS

HARARE FOR F. CHISHOLM; YAOUNDE FOR DATT LTCOL M. SOUSA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PHSA ENRG EPET EK KCOR ECON SOCI SUBJECT: EQUATORIAL GUINEA RAW, PAPER 6: REFINING OUR APPROACH

REF: MALABO 19, 21, 26, 27, 31

1. (U) Triggered by changes underway in Washington D.C.,
upcoming personnel rotations in Embassy Malabo and animated by
the recent attack on the capital, this is the final in a series
of cables intended to update our perspective on Equatorial
Guinea, and to provide a ground-level view of one of the world's
most-isolated and least-understood countries to interested
readers.



2. (SBU) Background: Equatorial Guinea (EG) suffered a brief,
brutal colonial period under its fascist Spanish overseers, and
then, a generation ago, fell off the cliff with its first
elected leader; the paranoid, cruel Macias, who did more
proportional harm to the country's already-miserable population
than Pol Pot did in Cambodia. The 1979 coup brought changes in
leadership and a few improvements, but the country remained
extremely poor and isolated until U.S. wildcatters, encouraged
by a once-active U.S. Embassy, found commercial quantities of
oil and gas offshore in the mid-90s. Sudden riches did nothing
to immediately address capacity challenges, and the country's
search (and acute need) for a mentor left it disappointed.
Given its well-established bad reputation, those who have not
focused on EG lately will likely find that it is now bigger than
it looks, and better than it sounds. Authoritarian structures
are undergoing transformation and the quality of life for
average citizens willing to make the effort is improving. The
U.S., without the baggage of the former colonialist powers
active in the region or the econo-colonialism of the Chinese, is
widely looked to by EG to provide a moral compass for this
development. The recent change in the U.S. administration -- in
the country with the highest per capita density of "Obamas" in
the world -- was received as a herald of warmer relations. U.S.
involvement is needed to shape EG's future. Relatively minor
U.S. technical assistance and advice in key areas (justice,
human rights and democracy, social development, education,
conservation, maritime security) will be effective in giving EG
the future we want it to have. It is time to abandon a moral
narrative that has left us with a retrospective bias and an
ambivalent approach to one of the most-promising success stories
in the region.



3. (SBU) Summary Questions: What do we really want for
Equatorial Guinea? Do we want to see the country continue to
evolve in positive ways from the very primitive state in which
it found itself after independence? Or would we prefer a
revolution that brings sudden, uncertain change and
unpredictability? The former is clearly the path the country is
on, and the latter has potentially dire consequences for our
interests, most notably our energy security.



4. (SBU) In the plus column, 1) the government is increasingly
populated by young, forward-looking actors, 2) the physical
environment and public services are rapidly improving for EG
citizens, 3) hundreds of millions of dollars are going into
social spending, 4) the government is opening its books in order
to obtain membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI), 5) recent elections showed marked improvement
over those in the past, and 6) both skilled and unskilled job
opportunities have mushroomed. U.S. engagement can accelerate
the positive change already underway. On the other hand, by
remaining aloof we cede a fertile field to others (e.g., the
Chinese) whose objectives differ from our own while we increase
the potential for a sudden shift that might put American lives
and interests at risk. Despite recent improvements, it is not
difficult to imagine an EG in which U.S. FDI has been
nationalized and/or turned over to others to operate, in which
Americans are reviled, in which our influence withers. Worse,
but imaginable, would be a chaotic change in which the hundreds
of Americans here are targeted, billions in U.S. investment
destroyed and lost, and -- by virtue of where EG sits on the map
-- 20% of our national energy imports threatened. Several
scenarios are possible: e.g., metastasis of the Niger Delta
troubles, replication of the Gulf of Aden piracy, or
"Venezuela-ization" of EG. Our involvement in helping EG
improve its security -- particularly maritime security where our

MALABO 00000048 002 OF 003


interests so firmly overlap -- and to overcome suspicion of its
neighbors, will be crucial to avoid drift in these directions.
Moreover, better security will help EG relax its de facto state
of martial law and lead to improvements in the area of human
rights and democracy. We will only strain bilateral relations
with EG if we continue to raise the bar in response to EG
efforts and overtures.



5. (SBU) Indeed, EG could be one of the easy ones. It has a
compact, relatively homogenous population with very high per
capita income levels. It has a stern but mellowing leadership,
one clearly trying to atone for past sins, one that is
pro-American, and one which is undergoing a positive
generational shift away from the authoritarian structures that
were its birthright. Meanwhile, the vestiges of those
structures serve to maintain one of the safest, most-secure
societies in the region. And its requests for help from us
(democratization, justice system reform, public finance reform,
social development, conservation, security assistance) almost
always come with burden-sharing arrangements, and are aimed at
gaining our technical assistance and capacity-building
expertise. EG is paying its own way.



6. (SBU) As indicated in previous messages, dinosaurs and
fossils do remain in EG, and they continue to wield power.
However, President Obiang has set a course for integrating EG
with the world and, by fits and starts, is moving the country in
that direction. Within the current array of alternative
leaders, here in Malabo it is not obvious there is anyone else
with the vision and influence to see this transformation
through. However, Obiang is not a young man. Accelerating
positive change while the conditions are right is a job that
only the U.S. is positioned to undertake.



7. (SBU) Bigger Than it Looks: Taking away U.S. energy imports
from North America (i.e., those from our immediate neighbors
Canada and Mexico), we find that over 30% of our imported oil
and gas comes from the Gulf of Guinea region -- more, for
example, than from the Middle East. The largest portion of the
Gulf of Guinea maritime territory belongs to little EG. To
ignore the security implications associated with the country at
the heart of this key region would leave a gaping hole in the
map of our national strategy. Yet, with crypto-sanctions in
place and a tiny embassy contingent severely constraining our
engagement, that is essentially our policy at the moment.



8. (SBU) A handful of U.S. oil companies have significant
investment stakes in EG, not to mention the several hundred
American workers they place in the field and the direct energy
imports the country's oil fields supply to U.S. markets.
Marathon Oil is reported to have around 30% of its capital at
risk in EG. Hess' exposure is slightly less. During our
extended official absence ('95 to '06), U.S. oil companies
painstakingly laid the groundwork for U.S. influence.
Impressing Equatoguineans, they built a reputation for Americans
of "doing what [we] say, and doing it right" (this is a quote
from President Obiang himself). The door is wide open for
additional American involvement, both official and private.
After all, we (via U.S. oil companies) pay all the bills - and
the EG leadership knows it.



9. (SBU) Better Than it Sounds: Yet there is something peculiar
about our policy toward EG. The country is certainly no worse
than many of our energy allies, and better than some. Given the
strategic issues in play, our policy is dangerously indifferent
and/or misinformed. From our vantage point here in Malabo,
witnessing close-up the yawning capacity gaps and huge
distractions EG faces, it is clear we will only solve the problems important to us by engaging -- and yet we refuse to do so despite repeated, open invitations. Our reluctance to become more involved appears to be rooted in our acceptance of a MALABO 00000048 003 OF 003 narrative being supplied by a rapacious diaspora, its co-authors among disaffected Spanish imigris, and oppugnant NGOs who have taken up the story for their own purposes. This storyline is supplied by Equatoguineans who left long ago and who have lost touch with progress here, and/or by Europeans with colonialist perspectives and memories of lost empire. This narrative maintains that Equatoguineans are primitive and ignorant people whose government is a sinister, repressive, blood-thirsty cabal. It suggests that by helping them we would only dirty our hands, because positive change is impossible. However, this embassy can report, based on renewed direct experience in EG, this story is largely fiction -- however accurate parts of it may have been at points in the past. This narrative is no longer a fit guide for our approach toward EG. It is, in fact, so misguided that it is more likely to wreck the relationship. 10. (SBU) A more appropriate guiding narrative comes from our own experience, in which we learned that discrimination -- against people who are culturally different, historically disadvantaged -- is wrong, untenable. EG's hand is not clenched in a fist. It is reaching out for assistance. Our own history has taught us that aiding those who ask for help can heal historical wounds and promote integration. This is the story we must help tell again. We cannot punish a people dealt a bad hand by history simply because they are behind. Money alone does not change this rule. There is a simple calculus at work. There are good guys and bad guys here. We need to strengthen the good guys -- for all his faults, President Obiang among them -- and undercut the bad guys. By doing so, we can help the country succeed. We won't accomplish this by accepting a story contrived by someone else. This is one we will have to write ourselves. SMITH