Spanish-Guinean “schizophrenia”

A few weeks ago, a characteristic incident in the always turbulent relations between Spain and Guinea took place. To any outside observer, what happened has no logical explanation. The President of the former Spanish colony in Africa travelled to our country, the sole foreign Chief of State present, to render homage to one of our most admired and respected politicians: former President Adolfo Suárez. He came to offer his thanks for the Spanish cooperation in favor of the country despite the fact that our leaders in those times refused him security (the Civil Guard) and economical-financial support (the introduction of the peseta as the Equatoguinean currency). All the president did was attend the funeral, showing his affection and respect, and he made no declarations concerning Spain or the Spaniards. Apart from the ceremonial greetings dictated by protocol at the cathedral in Madrid, no one received him officially, although he was the brunt of personal disqualifications and harsh criticism for attending the funeral.

The next day, when he defended the Spanish language and culture as identity traits of his country at the Cervantes Institute in Brussels, underlining the fact that the Spanish roots of Guinea are a unique referent on the African continent, all criticisms were aimed at the mention of the King’s intervention in the promotion of this act. Starting with this inexact statement, a windstorm of criticisms, communiqués and counter-communiqués was unleashed. The meeting or non-meeting, the dinner or non-dinner held on the occasion of the European Union-African summit concluded with there being no official encounter between the President of the Spanish Government and President Obiang; summing it up, “Spanish-Guinean schizophrenia” took hold of our relations once more.

It is not the first time this happens. Just a few months ago, the mere presence of “La Roja” (the national football team) in Malabo gave rise to a torrent of criticisms. And no one had the courage to say the simplest thing at that moment, the truth. And the truth is that the Spanish National Team was visiting its second linguistic and cultural home, that Equatoguineans consider it their own, follow its vicissitudes and celebrate with “La Roja”, and they wanted to see their “heroes” up close. Spain had won the World Cup in Africa, and Equatorial Guinea wanted to share and join in the rejoicing. So, why all this “schizophrenia”? Many will say that all the blame lies with President Obiang and his government, that Guinea does not deserve to be visited, that his regime must be quarantined from the visits of Spanish heads of state and politicians, and that Equatoguinean leaders are not welcome in our country either. This has been the most widespread opinion in political and media circles for decades, and it seems that our mutual “schizophrenia” makes it impossible to change this point of view that prevents us from distinguishing between real and unreal, thinking clearly, experiencing correct emotional responses or behaving within the normality of political and social stages.

However, many are aware of my commitment towards the reviewing and modification of the Spanish-Guinean relations during my term as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. At all times, I strived to change this schizoid tendency via dialogue, respect and mutual understanding. And I still work towards that end today, because I believe that Spain and Spaniards would be committing a terrible historical mistake if we were to abandon, ignore or disregard Guinea. Spain must not commit a mistake similar to the one perpetrated with the Philippines, where our language and culture have been fighting to make their way out of the “catacombs” these last years, struggling to avoid the steamroller of the Anglo-Saxon world.

As regards Guinea, it is all about becoming aware of their most recent changes, reforms, contradictions and difficulties. It is up to Guineans, and only Guineans, to decide their future… And it our duty to accompany them in this resolve. I am the first to request progress in political and social matters from President Obiang, but always from a standpoint of respect and constructive dialogue. What I can say today is that President Obiang is the firmest advocate in his country of Spanish-Guinean relations and of the hallmarks of the Spanish language and culture. I do not know what may happen in this aspect as regards his successors and the new generations of Guineans. My suggestion is that Spaniards and political analysts visit this country freely, become acquainted with the social and economical progresses made over the last years and, at the same time, come to terms with the responsibility and historical legacy that Spain has, and must maintain, as regards this African nation.

The “Spanish-Guinean Schizophrenia” does not help or improve the internal situation of Guinea in relationship with Spain. There is much talk about a state policy as regards foreign relations in which short, medium and long-term interests should be enough to force all Spanish politicians to work in pro of a stable and prosperous relation with Equatorial Guinea.  As politicians, we must take responsibility for this and not succumb, as so many other times previously, to the voices coming from some sectors and that feed this “schizoid syndrome”, voices that do not seem to feel any desire for favorable change for Guineans and Spaniards. To these voices I would say: please read the telegrams from the Embassy of the United States in Malabo revealed by wikileaks, and see how others congratulate themselves on the “Spanish-Guinean Schizophrenia”.