The President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang said he prevented a bloodbath in the West African nation of The Gambia, after its ex-ruler, Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power.
Obiang, who survived a coup attempt this month said he had call Jammeh about a year ago urging the former strongman to step aside and relocate to his Central African nation.
According to Mr. Obiang, whose son was convicted in absentia for corruption in France, Jammeh was going to resist West African forces that were deployed to flush him out of power but he his call changed that outcome.
Obiang in an interview with France 24 and RFI said he should be thanked for preventing a ‘bloodbath’ in The Gambia, a country whose population is slighter bigger than his.
“First of all, I believe that you should congratulate me for the decision taken by Equatorial Guinea to host the former President of The Gambia, particularly at a time there was a question of preventing war in that country,” said Obiang.
“ECOWAS forces wanted to occupy the country and perhaps that would have been a bloodbath for the citizens of The Gambia. The outgoing president was ready to fight. I felt as an individual I should do something. I spoke to him [Jammeh] on the phone and I suggested that he [Jammeh] should leave power to avoid a bloodbath.”
Opposition politicians in the Spanish-speaking African nation were critical of Jammeh’s stay in one of Obiang’s opulent mansions on an island outside the capital, Malabo.
Jammeh did not leave until West African forces captured his compound in his native Kanilai and advanced towards Banjul. He boarded an unmarked plane first to Guinea before heading to Equatorial Guinea, where he’s been granted asylum.
Obiang has been president for more than 38 years. He took power in a coup on August 3, 1979, ousting his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, who was shot by firing squad. He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016.
Equatorial Guinea is one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population still lives in poverty.