Homelessness in Equatorial Guinea: A Result of Corruption

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SEATTLE, Washington — Equatorial Guinea is a country located on the coast of Central Africa. Despite the country’s newfound wealth, approximately 44% of Equatorial Guinea’s population of 1.3 million live below the poverty line and homelessness continues to be an issue.  A corrupt and unjust government is thought to be a contributing factor to issues like poverty and homelessness in Equatorial Guinea going unaddressed.

Wealth in Equatorial Guinea

Oil reserves were discovered in 1996 off the coast of Equatorial Guinea, a country previously regarded as relatively poor. This discovery led to rapid economic growth within the country, as Equatorial Guinea quickly became a force in oil production.

With hopes to increase national oil output by 20,000 barrels per day in 2020, Equatorial Guinea’s wealth continues to grow. However, conditions for the general public in this African country have yet to mirror its success.

Citizens Forgotten

Although development in Equatorial Guinea is evident as a result of its increasing position of wealth, the country has lacked progression in terms of social development.

As of 2015, over 50% of Equatorial Guinea’s population did not have access to a reliable source of drinking water. Additionally, the risk of developing diseases such as typhoid fever, malaria and HIV is extremely high. However, these conditions persist with minimal evidence of allocation of resources to these populations despite accruing wealth for those who are a part of Equatorial Guinea’s government body.

Government Corruption

Many government officials in Equatorial Guinea have amassed great wealth during the country’s oil boom. Many experts believe these officials have potentially illegally taken from public oil revenue, causing a series of money laundering investigations that support suggestions of corruption.

In addition to monetary corruption, evidence exists of several other corruptive practices within Equatorial Guinea’s government that prevent alleviation of poverty and the overall improvement of living conditions within the country.

For one, the current president of Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has remained president of this African country for over 40 years. This long term suggests a dictatorship rather than a republic, as the country’s official name, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea suggests.

Furthermore, President Obiang seemingly holds total control over Equatorial Guinea and enforces various means in which he prevents any opposition to his power. One such method is media censorship.

In September of 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranked Equatorial Guinea as number eight on their most censored countries list. CPJ explains that broadcast media sources are all owned by the government, specific topics in the media are prohibited and social media and internet access are periodically blocked and/or controlled.

Such control of the media supports corruption under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s rule of Equatorial Guinea. Consequently, these questionable government practices have harmed the livelihoods of those living under the prolonged control of President Obiang.

Corruption and Homelessness in Equatorial Guinea

As described above, the living conditions in Equatorial Guinea for those not associated with the country’s government in power, are relatively poor. Many live in poverty and without water. In addition to this, Equatorial Guinea’s government has exerted power that has also impacted access to shelter for poorer citizens, resulting in homelessness in Equatorial Guinea.

Several examples of this are particularly shocking. In 2006, Equatorial Guinea’s government executed the forced eviction of approximately 300 families in Malabo, the country’s capital city. No notice of eviction, nor a temporary housing option was provided to this large number of families, leaving them all homeless. This incident is evidence of blatant disregard by government officials for the customary practices of due process.

The country’s government has attempted to alleviate homelessness in Equatorial Guinea as a result of these practices, as well as impoverished conditions, via public housing projects. However, those who should benefit from these projects are not. Instead, buildings labeled as public housing are often made home by middle-class families, rather than those in need. This is because public housing costs are made unreasonable for those desperate for a place to live. While a majority of the population of Equatorial Guinea earns less than $2 a day, these homes are only reasonable for those who make at least $500 a day. Thus, these public housing projects appear to be of no help to communities in need.

These examples make it evident that poverty and homelessness in Equatorial Guinea may be a result of unjust and corrupt government practices, including unlawful evictions and unreasonable housing costs. Although conditions in Equatorial Guinea appear to be improving due to increasing success for the country in the oil industry, investments in already well-off communities have been prioritized, leaving those in need of safe housing and healthy living conditions without such improvements.

Hannah Carroll
Photo: Flickr

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