Liberty Denied in Equatorial Guinea
Liberty Denied in Equatorial GuineaJune 29, 2011
Security forces in Equatorial Guinea detained more than 100 youth during the last week of May. The reasons for the detentions remain unclear.
During the last week of May, security forces in Equatorial Guinea detained more than 100 youth. The reasons for the detentions remain unclear, although government authorities chastised parents for giving their children too much liberty.
The government ended the school year in May this year, one month earlier than normal, apparently as part of its effort to prepare for the 17th African Union Summit, scheduled to begin on June 23 in Malabo. The theme of this year’s summit is "Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development".
The most recent detentions fit into a pattern of government harassment of Equatoguinean citizens. On April 25, 2011, two members of the political opposition party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS) were detained without formal charges by security forces in Bata, Equatorial Guinea. The CPDS asserts that the two men, Juan Manuel Nguema Esono and Vicente Nzé, were detained for their alleged involvement in organizational efforts for a May 1 rally to coincide with International Workers’ Day. The two men remained in police custody until their release late on the evening of April 29.
In an interview with the Spanish news agency EFE, the Equatoguinean Presidential Adviser in Charge of Missions, Miguel Oyono Ndong Mifumu, neither confirmed nor denied the arrests of the two men. He suggested that the members of CPDS were “not concerned about the arrest itself or their friends, but rather, with launching grievances against the government.”
These arrests occurred just one month after the government rejected applications submitted by opposition political parties to hold a public demonstration to advocate for democratic reforms and improved social conditions. The government mobilized security forces in multiple cities, raising concerns that it was using a show of force to thwart would-be-protestors.
The crackdown on public demonstrations stands in contrast to recent public statements by the country’s president Teodoro Obiang, who became the chair of the African Union in January. In a speech to Parliament on March 17, Mr. Obiang stressed the need to “eliminate the lapses that currently violate the rights and freedoms of individuals, groups, and organs and institutions of our society.” As chair of the African Union, Mr. Obiang has urged Africa to assume a leading role in “the promotion of democracy” across the continent.
The constitution of Equatorial Guinea explicitly guarantees the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, as does the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Equatorial Guinea ratified in 1986.
In late June, Reporters Without Borders was informed by an Equatoguinean government official that "it would not be welcome in Malabo." The organization was denied a visa to conduct a fact-finding mission, despite the government's frequent appeals to its critics to visit the country so that they can "compare, personally, the reality of our actual living experiences and their deteriorated cliché of defamation, prejudice, slander, and misinformation."