Authorities in Equatorial Guinea have announced that six French soldiers who were in a helicopter were arrested at the mainland port of Bata and held for further investigations. The authorities said the “unauthorized” landing violated the country’s airspace.
State owned media, TVGE reported that the government has not underrated the possibility of the detained soldiers being spies. “National authorities do not rule out that this incident could be a spy operation and provocation on the part of Paris,” TVGE reports.
The country’s Vice President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue was quoted to have referred to the helicopter as a “Reconnaissance helicopter,” whilst further claiming that “this demonstrates once again the intention of France to destabilize the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.”
However, the French army’s spokesperson, Colonel Pascal Ianni also claimed the said landing was done to refuel the Helicopter which was on its way from Douala in Cameroon to a French military base in Libreville, Gabon.
“The authorities in Equatorial Guinea decided to detain the helicopter. The issue is being resolved at the diplomatic level,” he said. A military source was quoted to have added that, “We stop regularly in Bata but we also regularly have coordination problems with the Bata airport,” the source said, adding that “the control tower in an excess of zeal does not give permission to land.”
Political commentators have made attempts to tag the issue as a retaliation for the recent ruling by France’s highest court, the Cour de Cassation which upheld a guilty verdict against the country’s vice President for embezzlement and money laundering but the government thought the “illegal” landing was a possible sign of espionage.
Equatorial Guinea is however known for its tough response in diplomatic issues. Just recently, authorities in the country who considered sanctions on the Vice president by the UK as “unilateral and illegal” closed their London based embassy.
Foreign Minister, Simeon Oyono Esono announced earlier that, “the first decision that the government has taken is the total closure of our diplomatic mission in London.” He added that, “We do not accept interference in our country’s domestic affairs.”
The recent landing and detainment of the French soldiers in Equatorial Guinea has raised lots of troubling questions. Do you think the French government could possibly be spying on the country?