The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea should immediately cease its suppression of independent voices ahead of presidential elections, a group of human rights and democracy organizations has demanded. The government should also reverse its March 16, 2016 order requiring a leading independent civic group to suspend operations indefinitely, the groups said:
President Obiang, in power since 1979, is seeking reelection in a vote hastily scheduled for April 24. He is the longest serving non-royal head of state in the world. His regime has been marked by longstanding repression. Few nongovernmental groups in Equatorial Guinea operate independently of the government due to serious restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Government officials perceive independent civic activists as political opponents. Such activists are vulnerable to harassment and reprisals from authorities.
The Republic of Congo’s Sassou-Nguesso is not alone among African autocrats seeking lifetime rule through constitutional changes, rigged elections and crackdowns on political opposition, The New York Times adds:
These “gentler coups d’états,” as Human Rights Watch calls them, are intended to avoid running afoul of the African Union, which will not recognize leaders who seize power through military coups. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Robert Mugabeof Zimbabwe and Paul Kagame of Rwanda have all moved to alter their countries’ constitutions to remain in power.
On March 2, 2016, Equatorial Guinea’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Corporations Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene, ordered the indefinite suspension of all activities by the Center for the Study and Initiatives for Development (Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo, CEID – a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy), the NGOs’ statement added:
The order was officially conveyed to CEID on March 16; and it alleges that comments made during a youth forum organized by CEID in January 2016, in the city of Bata, constituted “messages aimed at inciting violence and civil disobedience among the Equatoguinean youth,” and thus violated the country’s public order law and associations law…..
The groups also note that in any event the move to suspend CEID based on the comments of participants at their forum is disproportionate not least since the views of any participant do not necessarily imply the organization’s view. EG Justice has previously criticized the national laws applicable to civil society organizations as contravening constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.…..
The suspension of CEID comes in the wake of other measures to crack down on independent civic activism in the country. In January 2016, the government forced CEID to cancel its youth forum after one day. The event was a first of its kind in Equatorial Guinea that brought together over one hundred and fifty young participants from various parts of the country.
In August 2015, the government dismissed the management team of Rebola Cultural Center (Casa de Cultura de Rebola) a cultural center which had been independently managed by local volunteers, and vowed to appoint a new team composed of members of the ruling political party…..
“Rather than enabling active citizen participation in the lead-up to elections, Equatorial Guinea’s government is creating an increasingly hostile environment,” said Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice, “a vibrant civil society capable of assembling and of engaging in peaceful public debate is essential for a democratic society. The Obiang government, as it did when it suspended the Rebola Cultural Center, is relying on abusive laws and totally unfounded allegations to shut down a leading advocate for transparency and good governance.” Tutu added. “This draconian order must not be allowed to stand.”
The joint statement is signed by the following organizations:
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDHE)
Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Réseau International des Droits Humains (RIDH)
For more information, please contact:
In Tampa, for EG Justice, Tutu Alicante, (English, Spanish): +1-615-479-0207 (cell); email@example.com; Twitter @TutuAlicante @EGJustice