A United Nations special envoy has assured oil-rich Equatorial Guinea it will be supported in its “stabilisation efforts” following a “coup attempt” against President Teodoro Obiang, Africa’s longest-serving leader.

Francois Lounceny Fall, a former prime minister of Guinea, arrived in Equatorial Guinea over the weekend to meet Obiang and to “gather more information” on the putsch that Malabo said was mounted by foreign mercenaries on December 24.

“We are leaving here comforted by the assurances we have received from the President of the Republic, and I can say that the United Nations will continue to support Equatorial Guinea in its stabilisation efforts,” Fall said on Monday in a speech broadcast on state television at the end of his visit.

“The United Nations has made a clear statement against the use of force against states. The unconstitutional seizure of power is condemned by both the African Union (AU) and the Nations,” added Fall, the head of the UN’s central African office.

The Equatorial Guinea government has said its troops shot dead one “mercenary” and “used gunfire to disperse” others in the forests along the border with Cameroon, without specifying how many fighters were involved or how long the clashes lasted.

Brutal repression

Equatorial Guinea’s main opposition party, Citizens for Innovation (CI), has said dozens of its activists were arrested in recent weeks following the alleged coup attempt.

According to the party, which also met with Fall, national security forces “besieged” its headquarters for 10 days, only abandoning their posts on Monday morning, shortly before the UN envoy met Obiang at the presidential palace in Malabo.

The information could not be confirmed by official sources, and state media did not report it.

Formerly a small Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea has become one of sub-Sahara’s biggest oil producers, but a large proportion of its 1.2 million population lives in poverty.

Obiang, 75, who seized power in 1979, has faced a string of coup attempts during nearly four decades in office.

He was re-elected to a fifth seven-year term in 2016, gaining more than 90% of the vote according to the official results.

Critics accuse him of brutal repression of opponents, electoral fraud and corruption.

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