Youth Voices Silenced
Youth Voices SilencedEG Justice February 4, 2016
As another example of total disregard of Freedom of Association in Equatorial Guinea, the Governor of Litoral Province, Amado Nguema Owono, ordered the suspension of a youth forum organized by Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones para el Desarrollo (CEID), a leading NGO promoting active civil society participation in human rights, good governance, and transparency.
The government of Equatorial Guinea must end arbitrary restrictions on civil society organizations, and respect the fundamental freedoms of assembly and association.
In yet another example of disregard for the rule of law and human rights, on January 31 the Governor of Litoral Province, Amado Nguema Owono, ordered the suspension of a youth forum organized by the NGO Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones para el Desarrollo (CEID, Centre for the Study and Investigations for Development), a leading NGO promoting active civil society participation in human rights, good governance, and transparency.
“Regrettably, the government of Equatorial Guinea continues to recur to illegal actions to silence critical voices and curtail civilians’ ability to assemble peacefully. The suspension of the youth forum—similar to the closure of the Casa Cultural de Rebola on August 25, 2015—is a clear indication of the Equatoguinean government’s fear and disdain for civil society,”said Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice.
The Youth Forum, organized by CEID in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth, was to run from January 29 to 31. According to information provided to EG Justice by the event organizers, the gathering brought together over 150 people, and it intended to provide a space for young people from all over the country to exchange experiences, discuss their role in society, and propose solutions to persisting problems that disproportionately affect the youth. However, after a first day of lively presentations and discussions, the Litoral Province Governor summoned the organizers of the Forum and in total disregard of national laws and international human rights law ordered the police to take all necessary steps to impede the gathering.
The Governor’s allegations that the event organizers were residents of another city; or that the message of the gathering did not conform to the message of the Ministry of Education; or that CEID’s legal registration and event authorization documents were insufficient to sanction the youth forum are baseless and not supported by national laws or the facts.
This is not the first time CEID has faced backlash for its activities. In 2010 a staff member was fired from his faculty position at the National University of Equatorial Guinea after traveling to Washington, DC to speak at an event, about civil society involvement in efforts to promote transparency in the extractive industry in Equatorial Guinea. Then, in 2011, the Ministry of Interior ordered the cancelation of a civil society capacity building seminar organized by CEID.
At least one member of CEID’s Executive Board and a member of the organization, who spoke at the event on January 29 have been summoned to appear in front of government officials from the Ministry of Interior, the agency in charge of civil society organizations.
The right of citizens to join organizations freely, meet and operate independently from the government is recognized by the constitution and laws of Equatorial Guinea. “By clamping down and thwarting civil society efforts to meet and exercise their freedom of expression, the Equatoguinean government shows its determination to continue stifling fundamental human rights,” Tutu Alicante said.
EG Justice urges the Government of Equatorial Guinea to:
- Uphold its own laws and respect all fundamental human rights, especially, freedom of assembly, association and expression.
- Immediately cease harassment of civil society leaders and activists.
- Investigate and prosecute, as appropriate, any government officials who have been accused of carrying out activities to restrict the right to freedom of expression, or threatening, harassing, or committing violence against civil society activists.