Spain slammed over Equatorial Guinea match

Spain slammed over Equatorial Guinea match
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema walks on the before the start of the final match of the 2012 African Cup of Nations. File photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP
Spain's decision to play an international friendly football match against former colony Equatorial Guinea has raised the ire of human rights groups who say the African nation has one of the worst human rights records on the continent.

The friendly against footballing small-fry Equatorial Guinea is part of Spain's preparation for the 2014 World Cup.

It is part of a mini-African tour that will pit Spain against the oil-rich nation in central Africa on August 16th and then against South Africa three days later.

But Spain has come under fire for its decision to take its World Cup-holding football squad to a country which ranks a lowly 163rd out of the 176 countries surveyed by the anti-corruption group Transparency International.

The country's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is Africa’s longest serving leader, having come to power after a 1979 coup.   

Critics say Obiang has ruthlessly suppressed political opponents while sacking the country's vast oil reserves to build up his own personal fortune.

"I cannot imagine England deciding to play a friendly against the Zimbabwean national team while Robert Mugabe is in power," Tutu Alicante, the director of Equatorial Guinea human activist group EG Justice, told the UK's Guardian newspaper. 

The presence of the Spanish football team in Equatorial Guinea was "only going to bolster the image and credibility" of a corrupt authoritarian regime", Alicante added. 

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Human Rights for the country's main opposition party called Spain's decision to play in the country "indecent".

"I like football," Wenceslao Mansogo told Spain's El País newspaper. "But this is just masking reality." 

Equatorial Guinea is a former colony of Spain, and the only country on the continent where Spanish is the national language.

Life expectancy in the country with 700,000 inhabitants is 52 years, and the average salary is €200 ($267), according to the World Bank.

Spain is also one of Equatorial Guinea's key trading partners with exports from the African country to Spain valued at $850 million in 2011.

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