Exiled Olympian Convict Running To Remove Africa's Longest Ruling Dictator

Gus Envela wants to head a corrupt-free Equatorial Guinea, but first he must get beyond his own checkered past.


Envela says that he has learned from his mistakes, and will use those lessons learned as president. But it is hard to deny the irony of Envela's watchdog-styled E-mails, which warn of "greedy lobbyists," and praise "the spirit of transparency," as "guided by the law."

A number of influential people in Washington are familiar with Envela's political musings because of his verbose and regular letter campaigns, which detail the problems in Equatorial Guinea.

Envela splits time between Washington and Pittsburgh, where he is the president of Voice of Democracy, an Africa-focused consultancy.

He is infamous in Washington for his mailing lists, which target senior officials in the White House, political operatives, oil executives, media moguls, officials at the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security, and anyone else in Washington Envela thinks could have a say in what happens in Equatorial Guinea. Many of these people receive E-mails from Envela in their private E-mail inboxes.

Envela has tenuous connections to some in his E-mail list. He says he dined with Democratic strategist James Carville, during which time he said they discussed solutions for Africa. He says he consulted for an NGO called Africa Global with Warren Weinstein, the American contractor who went missing in Pakistan and appeared in a video pleading for his life in May. And he says he met with the office of late California Rep. Tom Lantos, a proponent of human rights, about the abuses in Equatorial Guinea. (Carville did not respond to request for comment.)

"I want to say that... I did everything I could to sound the alarm," says Envela of his prolific E-mailing. "And that I did it even before there was oil, when no one cared about Equatorial Guinea."

Envela sounded the alarm to his E-mail list on Teodorin's mansion, on the Riggs Bank transaction, and on American lobbyists such as Lanny Davis who were employed by Obiang. It is unclear whether any action was taken as a result of his letters.

"There can only be good things coming from disseminating truthful information," says Tutu Alicante, executive director of human rights group Equatorial Guinea Justice. "And to the extent that [Envela] has been able to forward truthful reports, to the influential people in his E-mail list, that is helpful."

Even if Obiang did fall out of power, and Teodorin did not succeed him, Envela would have to beat several other more well-known opposition candidates.

Severo Moto Nsá, for one, is more organized than Envela. As head of the Equatorial Guinea's Progress Party, Moto has an entire government-in-exile that is simply waiting for regime change in Madrid. Moto says he cannot return to Equatorial Guinea because Obiang will "eat his testicles."

Plácido Micó Abogo, who founded the opposition party the Convergence for Social Democracy, is the only well-known opposition candidate actually living in Equatorial Guinea, a choice he has paid for with multiple arrests and alleged torture. Micó is sharply critical of the political situation in Equatorial Guinea, and believes Obiang has retained power with the help of the U.S. because of oil interests.

Joseph Kraus, the program and development director at Equatorial Guinea Justice, says "it is hard to know how popular anyone who runs against Obiang is... because the elections are regularly marred by fraud."

Kraus says it also appears that Obiang has been working to further solidifying his position. "He has recently forged relationships with other African leaders, made trade contacts," said Kraus. "So it's unlikely any coup attempt would be recognized."

Gregory Simpkins, a member of the House of Representatives' sub-committee on African & Global Health, blames Obiang's strong position on the opposition's inability to organize—be it Envela, Moto or Mico.

"The opposition always does poorly because they never concentrate on building parties, just plotting to overthrow the government," Simpkins says.

Envela, however, is content to stay in his lane.

"Obiang is crazy, but he is also a coward," he says, excited over the prospect of his own campaign. "With the recent conviction of Charles Taylor at the Hague, the arrest of Laurent Gbagbo in the Ivory Coast, the coup in Mali, and the Arab Spring... President Obiang knows his time is up."