- Miguel Abia Biteo has been named the new Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea. Mr Abia earlier had held several ministerial offices in the central African dictatorship until his was forced to leave the Finance Ministry in a corruption affair in October 2000. The experienced politician is a key player in the country's booming oil sector.
Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has named the heads of the country's new government, according to information released by the Madrid-based Association for Democratic Solidarity with Equatorial Guinea (ASODEGUE). While Mr Abia is to become Prime Minister, Marcelino Oyono Ntutumu is named First Deputy Prime Minister and Ricardo Mangué is becoming Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Abia is of the Bubi people, a national minority but the majority people of Bioko Island. The 47-year-old thus becomes one of the very few Bubis to rise to substantial power in Equatorial Guinea, which is politically dominated by the family clan of President Obiang of the Fang people from the Mongomo area on the mainland. Most resistance to the Obiang regime is found among Bubi activists.
Equatorial Guinea's new Prime Minister has a solid curriculum. He lived and studied in the former Soviet Union, where he graduated in mine engineering. Returning home, he quickly became member of the ruling - and at that time only - party; the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), headed by President Obiang.
Mr Abia started his political career working in the Equatoguinean Ministry of Mining. He participated, from the very start, in the important oil negotiations with North American companies, and is said to "know all its secrets" of the country's non-transparent oil industry.
According to ASODEGUE, Mr Abia thus became known as "the man of the Americans" in Equatorial Guinea. At the height of the detentions of Bubis in November 1998 - where also key members of the PDGE ruling party were arrested - Mr Abia saw serious accusations made against him. He however managed to maintain his position at the Ministry.
Until now, Mr Abia's top position in Equatoguinean politics was the short-lived post as Minister of Finance from 1999 to 2000. Also in this position, the Bubi politician plaid a key role in developing the country's oil industry and - it is said among opposition politicians - securing the stream of oil revenues into the hands of Equatorial Guinea's ruling elite.
In October 2000, he however lost his position and public honour in a major power struggle, which was portrayed as a corruption scandal in the country's state controlled media. The Equatoguinean parliament demanded that Mr Abia and two other Ministers resign, accusing them of embezzling large amounts.
Mr Abia was accused of embezzling Franc CFA 150 million, using gasoline bonds for private use, paying travels abroad for his family members with public means and of employing unnecessary personnel in his Ministry.
While being forced to step down, Mr Abia nevertheless was said to have maintained close and friendly ties with President Obiang. According to the exiled opposition, he has spent the last years in organising transfers of funds originating from the oil sector for the ruling elite.
Mr Oyono, the country's new First Deputy Prime Minister, has served as Equatoguinean Transport Minister during the last few years. The ruling party politician, who also is a Bubi, has been in and out of cabinet since 1992.
The new Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Mangué, also is an earlier cabinet member, being Minister of Labour since 2001. After studying law, political sciences and sociology in Spain, he has also headed Equatorial Guinea's Supreme Court and the Office of the Presidency.
Prime Minister Abia - in cooperation with President Obiang - is expected to name a new government within some time. This will replace the outgoing cabinet of a record 50 members - making Equatorial Guinea the country in the world with the highest minister density. 21 of these 50 cabinet members are close relatives to the President.
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