A prominent anti-corruption and human rights activist in Equatorial Guinea says that armed plainclothes security officers severely beat and stabbed him on October 27, Human Rights Watch, EG Justice, Amnesty International, Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APDH), and CIVICUS said today:
Alfredo Okenve, vice president of Center for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID – a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy), said that the men forced him out of his car at gunpoint and after beating him, abandoned him in an uninhabited area. The assailants may have been targeting his brother, the head of an opposition political party, but continued to beat Okenve even after they confirmed his identity. The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Michel Forst, should issue an urgent appeal to the Equatorial government regarding the case.
“Regardless of the reasons, the vicious attack appears to be the government’s latest attempt to silence dissent by force,” said Tutu Alicante, director of EG Justice, which monitors human rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea. “But beating and leaving Alfredo Okenve for dead by the side of the road will not stop him and others from fighting for a just Equatorial Guinea.”
The Equatorial Guinea authorities have long harassed both Okenve brothers for their criticism of the government. In April 2017, police arrested Alfredo and the president of CEID, Enrique Asumu, and arbitrarily detained them for two weeks, until each agreed to pay a fine of 2 million CFA francs (US$3,325).
The discovery of oil off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in the 1990s catapulted the poverty-stricken country to the highest per capital income in Africa, but endemic corruption and mismanagement has robbed its citizens of much of the oil boom’s potential benefit. Equatorial Guinea claims to have renewed its effort to join EITI after its 2010 candidacy was rejected due to the government’s repression of civil society, including abuses against Alfredo Okenve [a participant in the World Movement for Democracy].
“The vicious assault on the country’s leading transparency activist would appear to extinguish any doubt that the government’s good governance commitments to the IMF were nothing more than a cynical ploy to get a loan,” said Sarah Saadoun, a business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Anyone who cares about good governance in Equatorial Guinea should be demanding answers from the government about this attack.”