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The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africaby Adam Roberts
Synopses & Reviews
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country roughly the size of the state of Maryland. Humid, jungle covered, and rife with unpleasant diseases, natives call it Devil Island. Its president in 2004, Obiang Nguema, had been accused of cannibalism, belief in witchcraft, mass murder, billion-dollar corruption, and general rule by terror. With so little to recommend it, why in March 2004 was Equatorial Guinea the target of a group of salty British, South African and Zimbabwean mercenaries, traveling on an American-registered ex-National Guard plane specially adapted for military purposes, that was originally flown to Africa by American pilots? The real motive lay deep below the ocean floor: oil.
In The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth effectively described an attempt by mercenaries to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea — in 1972. And the chain of events surrounding the night of March 7, 2004, is a rare case of life imitating art — or, at least, life imitating a 1970s thriller — in almost uncanny detail. With a cast of characters worthy of a remake of Wild Geese and a plot as mazy as it was unlikely, The Wonga Coup is a tale of venality, overarching vanity and greed whose example speaks to the problems of the entire African continent.
"The most terrifying thing about this chronicle of a failed coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea is that it's not a Graham Greene novel but a true story. Roberts, an Economist staffer, chronicles the plot by foreign mercenaries and merchants to topple the country's brutal dictatorship solely for the 'wonga' (British slang for 'money, usually a lot of it'). An irresistibly lurid tale is peopled with bellicose profiteers, particularly of the neocolonialist sort from Europe and South Africa, with long histories of investment in oil, diamonds and war-for-profit. Among these self-styled gentleman adventurers are Margaret Thatcher's son, Sir Mark Thatcher, and 'rag-and-bone intelligence men' who linger in hotel bars, 'picking up scraps of information... selling them on to willing buyers, whether corporate or government.' The audacity of the coup's planners is almost admirable, though Roberts rightly chastises them for their oil-soaked greed. As he lifts the curtain to the backrooms of power in postcolonial Africa, the reader finds that not much has changed on the continent since 1618, when the 'Company of Adventurers of London Trading to the Ports of Africa' became the first private company to colonize Africa for profit." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The most encouraging aspect of The Wonga Coup is its portrait of South Africa and Zimbabwe...coming down hard on Mr. Mann and his coup-plotting cronies." Wall Street Journal
"The book is filled with meticulous reporting on the planning of the coup and gets inside the world of African mercenaries, arms suppliers and intelligence traders." Seattle Times
Book News Annotation:
In March 2004, a planeload of South African, British, and Zimbabwean mercenaries were detained by Zimbabwean authorities and accused of involvement in a plot to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea, setting off a scandal that would come to involve Mark Thatcher, son of the former British Prime Minister. Roberts (staff correspondent of The Economist) has here attempted to reconstruct the origins of the coup, unsurprisingly rooted in the politics of oil, and describe how it unraveled. Among his sources were active participants in the coup and spy novelist Frederick Forsyth, whose The Dogs of War was a fictionalized account Forsyth's own involvement in an earlier failed British attempt to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea in the 1970s that closely paralleled the 2004 incident. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A real life version of THE DOGS OF WAR in which a band of mercenaries plots to over throw a venal government of the newly oil-rich nation of Equatorial Guinea
Roberts investigates why in 2004, the tiny, oil-rich African nation of Equatorial Guinea became the target of a group of salty British, South African and Zimbabwean mercenaries, traveling on an American-registered ex-National Guard plane.
About the Author
Adam Roberts is a staff correspondent of The Economist. For four years he was the publication's Johannesburg bureau chief, reporting from Madagascar, Congo, South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and-illegally-from Zimbabwe, as well as from many corners in between. He has also reported from South-East Asia, the Balkans, Europe and the United States. A former student of international politics at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, he is now based in London.
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