Equatorial Guinea

 

  • Country recommendations on civic space for UN´s Universal Periodic Review

    CIVICUS makes six joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space: Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Qatar

    CIVICUS and its partners have made joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 6 countries in advance of the 33rd UPR session (April-May 2019). The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Cote d’Ivoire: CIVICUS and the Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des droits Humains (CIDDH) examine the steps taken by the government of Cote d’Ivoire to address restrictions on civic space.  We highlight the promulgation of the law on Human Rights Defenders and the subsequent Resolution passed to ensure implementation of the law. However, we note ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression, the targeting of journalists and bloggers by the authorities, attempts to undermine freedom of association and the tendency to use excessive force to disperse peaceful protests.  

    Democratic Republic of Congo (FR): CIVICUS and Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) analyse the multiple unwarranted restrictions on civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Authorities have systematically banned protests, in particular protests organised by civil society, social movements and opposition, while security forces have used excessive force against peaceful protesters, leading to hundreds of deaths. Additionally, HRDs and activists are subject to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment, aimed at preventing them from exercising their democratic and civic rights. These unwarranted restrictions have intensified since the start of the political and security crisis in 2015, precipitated by President Kabila’s attempts to remain in power despite a constitutional two-term limit. 

    Equatorial Guinea: CIVICUS, the Committee Protect Journalists (CPJ), Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo (CEID), ONG – Cooperación y Desarrollo and EG Justice examine ongoing restrictions on freedom of association, attacks and intimidation of journalists and bloggers and the general disenabling environment for freedom of expression and independent media agencies.  We further discuss threats faced by human rights defenders and the frequent violent repression of peaceful assemblies.

    Ethiopia: CIVICUS, the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia (AHRE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), DefendDefenders, PEN International, Article 19, the Consortium of Ethiopian Rights Organizations (CERO), and Access Now examine the Government of Ethiopia’s fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, and unwarranted restrictions on HRDs since its previous UPR examination in 2014. While the government recently committed to addressing a range of restrictive legislation, alongside releasing large numbers of political prisoners, at the time of writing, the restrictive legal framework remains in place. Acute implementation gaps were found regarding recommendations relating to civic space including the rights to the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly.

    Nicaragua (ES): CIVICUS and the Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development Federation (Red Local) address concerns about the violent repression of protests and the criminalisation of protest leaders and demonstrators, particularly of the student and peasant movements, as well as the intensification of the persecution and intimidation suffered by CSOs supporting social movements in Nicaragua. Along with the growing restrictions on freedom of expression that stem from media concentration in government hands and pressures against journalists and independent media covering issues such as corruption, elections and infrastructure or extractive projects, the submission further examines the alarming increase of unwarranted restrictions on the press linked to the coverage of protests and their violent suppression and related human rights violations.

    Qatar: CIVICUS and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights highlight the continued restrictions on freedom of association and expression in Qatar, which include unwarranted arrests on foreign journalists and confiscation of equipment, and restrictions on online content under the Cybercrime Prevention Law. The authorities in Qatar also continue to restrict the formation of independent civil society organisations committed to the advancement of human rights, and there have been severe and undue limitations to freedoms of assembly resulting in almost no protests in Qatar despite serious human rights violations.

     

  • Equatorial Guinea: CIVICUS urges release of activists and respect for human rights

    Spanish 

    Update: Since the issuance of this release, as of 28 April Enrique Asumu has been released from jail. Alfredo Okenve is still in detention.

     Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention of civil society activists Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve, and severe restrictions on civic space in Equatorial Guinea. Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve are the President and Vice President of the civil society organisation, the Centre for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). 

    The two activists were arrested on 16 April in the capital Malabo following activities commemorating the twentieth anniversary of CEID.  They were interrogated by the Minister of Interior for several hours before being taken to a prison in Malabo where they are detained. 

    “The government of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in power for almost 40 years has created unacceptably stifling conditions for political and civil society participation, which are an anathema in this day and age,” said Mandeep Tiwana, Head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS.

    Several members of CEID are also at risk of arrest following summons from the authorities to explain their participation at CEID’s 20th anniversary celebrations. CEID facilitates civic engagement on human rights, good governance, community and rural development. The organisation also raises awareness about the management and use of natural resources in Equatorial Guinea.

    The arbitrariness of the detention of Enrique Asumu and Alfredo Okenve is symptomatic of the political environment in Equatorial Guinea.  Earlier this year, in February 2017, CIVICUS spoke to Alfredo Okenve about the situation in the country revealing a sorry picture of public protests being violently repressed;   a majority of civil society organisations being heavily influenced by the state; close monitoring of independent civil society by the authorities; restriction of online freedoms through routine blocking of websites and social media; and the labelling of those expressing democratic dissent as ‘enemies of the state’.

    Last year, in March 2016, Equatorial Guinean authorities issued an order to suspend the activities of CEID indefinitely. They accused the organisation of violating the country’s public order law by disseminating messages aimed at inciting youth to violence and civil disobedience during its Youth Forum on tolerance and development on 29 January 2016.   In September 2016, CEID announced that it had resumed operations and has since then organised several events attended by public officials including the Prime Minister. 

    CIVICUS urges the release of the detained activists and respect for internationally guaranteed human rights standards by the government of Equatorial Guinea.

    Equatorial Guinea is rated closed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

    For more information, please contact

    Deborah Walter

    Communication Manager, CIVICUS

     

    Inés M. Pousadela

    Policy and Research Officer, CIVICUS

     

  • New report reveals extent of media repression and human rights violations in Equatorial Guinea

     

  • Nuevo informe revela el alcance de la represión de los medios y de las violaciones a los derechos humanos en Guinea Ecuatorial

    Un nuevo informe ha revelado el alcance de la represión de los medios de comunicación y de los derechos humanos en la nación centroafricana de Guinea Ecuatorial, a menudo descrita como uno de los países con mayor censura del mundo.Titulado «El Silencio no significa consentimiento: el terrible estado de los derechos humanos en Guinea Ecuatorial», el informe fue publicado en junio por la organización local de derechos humanos, EG Justice, y la alianza mundial de la sociedad civil, CIVICUS. Dicho documento describe cómo los medios son controlados por el presidente Teodoro Obiang Nguema y su familia. El presidente Nguema es el jefe de Estado más antiguo de África y el líder político con más años en activo de todo el mundo, miembros de la realeza aparte.


    Hay muy pocos medios de comunicación independientes en el país. Los periodistas, incluidos aquellos que trabajan para los medios de comunicación estatales, suelen ser señalados como objetivos por sus críticas al presidente o a su familia. El gobierno lleva a cabo un control estricto sobre la información transmitida por los medios de comunicación y ha prohibido la publicación de imágenes de manifestaciones en otros países. El gobierno controla la capacidad de los ciudadanos para acceder a la información mediante la imposición de restricciones en Internet y a páginas web que a veces se muestran críticas con las autoridades.
    «El gobierno de Guinea Ecuatorial ha militarizado al Estado y utiliza los medios de comunicación como una herramienta para difundir su propaganda, evitando al mismo tiempo que aquellos con puntos de vista diferentes se expresen», afirmó Tutu Alicante, director de EG Justice.


    «Debido a que nadie exige cuentas al gobierno ni a sus agentes, los niveles de impunidad son altos y el ciclo de abusos contra los derechos humanos continúa», declaró Alicante.
    El presidente Nguema y el partido gobernante, el Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE), utilizan las elecciones para legitimar su permanencia en el poder. Se organizan elecciones periódicamente, pero a menudo en condiciones muy restrictivas y caracterizadas por altos niveles de represión contra miembros de la oposición política y contra activistas políticos. A menudo los líderes de los partidos políticos son arrestados justo antes de una elección o se les prohíbe impugnarla.


    Si bien la Constitución permite la libertad de asociación y de reunión, la legislación limita en gran medida el proceso de inscripción de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil (OSC) y el gobierno se niega a reconocer a los sindicatos. A veces se suspenden las organizaciones de la sociedad civil y se procede a la detención de sus miembros y dirigentes de forma arbitraria, se les agrede físicamente y son objeto de persecución judicial.
    «Durante las últimas cuatro décadas, el gobierno del PDGE ha suprimido los derechos humanos. Ha llegado el momento de que la comunidad internacional se centre en el estado de los derechos humanos en Guinea Ecuatorial y haga que sus líderes rindan cuentas», expresó David Kode, jefe de reivindicaciones y campañas de CIVICUS.


    Por lo general, se permiten las manifestaciones organizadas por los seguidores del partido gobernante, mientras que las organizadas por la sociedad civil o por los organismos profesionales son reprimidas u obstaculizadas de forma violenta. Debido a las restricciones impuestas a los defensores de los derechos humanos y a los periodistas, muchos prefieren autocensurarse mientras que otros han huido al exilio.
    CIVICUS y EG Justice han solicitado al gobierno la creación de un entorno favorable para que los ciudadanos participen en los procesos políticos sin temor a la intimidación ni a las represalias.


    FIN.
    Para más información o para concertar entrevistas, escriba a:
    David Kode

     

  • Silence Does Not Mean Consent: The Dire State of Human Rights in Equatorial Guinea

    Located in the west of Central Africa between Cameroon and Gabon, and with a population of less than a million people, Equatorial Guinea is often described as one of the most censored countries in the world. The space for civil society - civic space - is closed, and consequently, independent journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) are vulnerable to judicial persecution, threats and attacks from the state. Recent acts of intimidation, arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment of HRD Alfredo Okenve on the day he was supposed to receive a human rights award from the French Embassy in the capital city of Malabo exemplify the risks faced by HRDs.

    Cover EG

    President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is Africa’s longest-serving head of state and the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader, having seized power from his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema through a coup d’état in 1979. Equatorial Guinea remained isolated until oil was discovered in the early 1990s and the country opened up to more foreign investment. However, despite the vast amounts of funds secured from the sale of oil, Equatorial Guinea’s human development indicators remain extremely low. Much of the wealth is controlled by President Obiang’s family and close associates while a majority of citizens lack basic services and live in poverty. President Obiang and his ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) have used violence, repression, intimidation and harassment to maintain control of all state institutions and military forces for four decades. Groups or political parties and activists that are perceived by government officials to threaten the power base of the PDGE are either co-opted, harassed, intimidated, or forced to self-censor.  

    This policy brief sheds light on some recent human rights violations committed by the regime and restrictions placed on citizens. Since assuming power four decades ago, President Obiang has refused to implement any verifiable and irreversible democratic or political reform. The ruling PDGE party, maintaining stringent control over all aspects of governance, has completely closed spaces for civil society reforms. Given this, Equatorial Guinea’s UPR hearing offers a rare opportunity to hold the government responsible for human rights violations. The African Union (AU), donors, multilateral organisations and global civil society have a responsibility to exert pressure on the government to implement much-needed reforms.

    Read the Policy Brief: ENGLISH | SPANISH

     

  • State of civil society in Equatorial Guinea: An interview with CEID

    Spanish

    CIVICUS speaks to Alfredo Okenve, board member in charge of the International Cooperation and Good Governance Programmes of the Centre for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). Since 2012 Okenve coordinates the network of national CSOs in Equatorial Guinea. Trained as a physicist, he is a human rights defender and social activist with more than 20 years’ experience in consulting and management of development and civil society projects in Equatorial Guinea. He has worked as a professor of Mathematics and Physics and held a managerial position at the National University of Equatorial Guinea.

    1. The government of Equatorial Guinea is among the worst human rights abusers in the world. How would you describe the environment for civil society activity in the country?
    Civil society is still fledgling in Equatorial Guinea. It dates back to the nineties, and it faces internal difficulties such as a lack of tradition and experience in development and human rights work. It does not have much institutional support either - neither external nor domestic. However, the greatest among its current challenges lies with Equatorial Guinea’s government system. The ruling regime does not uphold any fundamental right, including the right to freedom of association enshrined in our Constitution. The environment is unfavourable, even hostile, to civil society work in every respect (the law, actual practices, lack of respect for human rights, funding, etc.). And it is particularly so for independent groups such as our NGO. There is a long list of legally recognised organisations in the country, but this basically serves the government to show that it respects the right to free association. In practice, however, the Ministry of the Interior stigmatises those organisations that want to work for the country’s development without following its orders, by arbitrarily attributing them uncivil actions. It has even suspended by decree the activities of NGOs like CEID, our organisation, or AGECDEA, another organisation dedicated to the “dangerous” task of providing solidary support to the elderly.
    The situation has not improved in spite of the many civil society initiatives directed at the government to foster dialogue, improve the environment for civil society and promote human rights and the fight against poverty. On the contrary, in recent years Equatorial Guinea has been increasingly militarised, as if we were living under a state of siege.

    2. What are the obstacles limiting the freedom of association in Equatorial Guinea? How have they affected you and your organisation?
    Domestic laws and administrative practices are very restrictive. On one hand, the process for the legalisation of an organisation is long and full of obstacles. For example, it requires the organisation’s promoters to submit to the Ministry of the Interior an affidavit certifying that it will submit to its control on a quarterly basis, plus a favourable report from the Ministry of the area in which the organisation wishes to work, and another report from the governor or provincial government delegate. It also requires them to formalise the constitution of the entity before a notary public, who in turn must obtain an authorisation from the Ministry of the Interior to validate this act. No legally constituted association is allowed to receive any donation, whether local or foreign, private or public, above a hundred US dollars without prior authorisation from the Interior Minister. Another example: no legally constituted organisation, that is, no organisation that has been allowed by the government to function, can deal directly with a beneficiary community without an additional authorisation or credential; this is not what the law says, but it is “customary”.

    Additionally the government routinely threatens the members of those organisations that are considered to be “enemies of the fatherland”, that is, those that are not aligned politically with the government. Last December, the governor of the Litoral province, where our headquarters are located, gathered all regional and provincial authorities and urged them not to interact with our NGO since their Ministry is in charge of the third sector, and the Minister had decreed our suspension.
    Personally, as a professor and staff of the National University, I have not received my salary and have been arbitrarily and illegally banned from doing my job since June 2010, despite a shortage of teachers –all because of my condition as a social leader, human rights defender and good governance activist. What they are trying to do is condemn me to social exclusion and thereby send a warning to forcefully discourage civil society.
    From 2015 on, the country’s CSOs have submitted to the government joint proposals to reform the laws of associations, indicating the limitations that the current law imposes on our social work; we have also raised the need for a national forum or conference on the role of civil society in the country. We have not yet received any official response.

    3. Equatorial Guinea has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in Africa, and online censorship is routine. How do you manage to get your work done when the freedom of expression and information is so restricted?
    Internet access remains a problem for us, either because of the low technology level or the lack of telematics capabilities of the country, or because of blockages imposed on critical websites or social networks such as Facebook or Twitter –coupled with electricity supply problems in most of the country.
    Internally, we have no choice other than try to bypass and endure these obstacles, but it is indeed difficult and it restricts our work capacity. At the organisational level, we have adopted the strategy of opening spaces for information and coordination among our country’s civil society organisations, notably the National Coordination of CSOs, a platform and meeting point for the solidarity action of civil society.

    4. Are protests allowed in Equatorial Guinea? How are citizens treated when the try to protest?
    Our Constitution recognises the right to strike and demonstrate. The written rules state that a notification to the government authorities would suffice to exercise this right. In practice, however, the only demonstrations that are allowed and that are actually taking place in our country are those of support and praise to the President of the Republic and his policies –that is to say, those that are summoned by the government or the PDGE (Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea), the ruling party. Anyone promoting a demonstration against the government policies or any other form of expression, even the mere distribution of information leaflets in the streets, generally ends up under interrogation, tortured, imprisoned and/or dismissed from their jobs. Any claim or remedy that is filed with the competent authority in this regard is either denied or ignored. I think the situation is similar to that of closed regimes such as North Korea’s.

    5. What are CEID’s aims? How does the organisation do its work within this context?
    CEID is a not-for-profit, non-denominational and independent organisation. It began to form in 1996, at a time when our country was, despite its plentiful resources, among the most underdeveloped countries in Africa. It originated out of the concerns of a group of young graduates from several European universities (mostly Spanish and Russian), coming from fields as diverse as International Cooperation, Journalism, Economics, Engineering and Medicine. All of us wanted to contribute from civil society to improve the living conditions and the prospects for development of their fellow citizens, and were convinced that fostering a responsible, conscious, participative and enabled citizenry was of the utmost importance. And we shared the idea that the only real form of development is human, inclusive, sustainable and integral development. We wanted to dedicate our time to volunteer but professional work to fight against poverty and marginalisation through research and cooperation. The NGO was set up in Malabo in April 1997, and only by the end of 1998 did we obtain the authorisation to operate in the country.

    We started working to identify the development problems of our country, analysing possible solutions from civil society. As a result, we set out at the grassroots level with two important programmes: the Civil Society Strengthening Programme and the Local Community Development Programme. A large part of our interventions were designed around these programmes. But we found out that international funding was in retreat because Guinea had become, thanks to its fossil fuel production, a middle-income country –even though our government had no intention or will to use any of that income to fund development through non-governmental entities. The ruling regime, which is totalitarian and based on monolithic thinking, never liked the sight of actors out of its orbit venturing on the national stage. There were plenty of attempts to co-opt our leaders, with diverse degrees of success. For all of these reasons, two years after we were granted legal personality we went through a crisis that led us to total hibernation lasting for about six years. We resumed our activities in 2007-2008, and now our priorities include human rights and good governance, issues that were prohibited to us by law until 2006. We also found some timid international support.
    In sum, our work has focused on the introduction of new information technologies in education, local community and rural development, good governance and, above all, the strengthening of civil society. Since its inception five years ago, CEID leads the National Coordinating Network of Civil Society Organisations. We have also done consultancy work with international development and cooperation organisations and programmes.

    We have a Board of Directors that is renewed every three years, and we gather in members’ assemblies every 18 months. Our headquarters are located in Bata, the country’s second capital. We cover our operating expenses and minor projects with the fees paid by our members-partners and the odd consultancy job; for development projects of a certain magnitude, of which we have already executed (or are in the process of implementing) fourteen, we seek external funds. So far all of these funds have come from the few international cooperation agencies that are still active in the country, or from occasional consortia with extractive industries fulfilling their commitment to corporate social responsibility. We have never received a single dollar from the State of Guinea.

    Most CEID members are public servants and our dedication to NGO work is voluntary. This leaves us in a situation of great vulnerability, as we appear as easy prey for harassment, threats and blackmail. Nevertheless, we try to find courage in the conviction that we are doing something that is very necessary and, generally speaking, unprecedented. So far we have managed not to deviate from our ideas.
    Unfortunately, we don’t have any self-protection strategy in place. The constant restrictions we face, plus the challenge of overcoming them while working on the ground in order to fulfil our commitments have left us no time or capacity to establish much-needed contingency policies. We therefore just try to always work within the legal framework and to appeal to the legality of all our actions.

    As we lack the capacity to directly execute many of our initiatives, we usually submit them as suggestions to the institutions that are in a position or whose job it is to implement them. That is why we are always encouraging meetings and advocacy with government institutions such as those in the good governance sector (human rights, transparency) and in social sectors such as education, health and children’s care. We take a similar stance towards other NGOs that we have been providing training to. In 2011 we founded the Coordinating Network along with sectorial sub-networks to join efforts and promote collective initiatives. CEID plays a very active part in the tripartite EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) National Commission, created in 2007, in representation of civil society. It is a challenge for Guinean civil society to have its own space recognised and for NGOs to be treated as development actors in their own right.

    6. What can domestic actors do to promote respect for human rights and a healthy civic space in Equatorial Guinea?
    We believe that the steps that we are already taking are the right ones and we need to work to improve them, because they are based on participatory strategies. Despite the obstacles and restrictions faced by Guinean civil society, we struggle to conquer spaces. Lobbying, advocacy and perseverance are as necessary as increased cohesion and solidarity. An example of the steps we have taken is the creation, within the Coordinating Network, of sectorial groups and specifically one for Human Rights and Transparency. On the same line of action, through the national information media CEID has been able to keep over the past four years a one-hour weekly radio space from which to promote respect for human rights, social involvement and public spiritedness. Likewise, we have proposed to the Ministry of Education the introduction of the subject of civic and social education within the national school curriculum.

    7. How can external actors, including regional organisations and international solidarity movements, support civil society in Equatorial Guinea?
    Civil society organisations in Equatorial Guinea need not just financial but also human, technical and institutional support from regional and international organisations. We need management tools and training on issues related to the development of civic spaces in restrictive environments, and to the role of civil society in the struggle for the rule of law and against poverty. We need to be wrapped up in solidarity and not be left alone; we need international actors to integrate us into their sub-regional, regional and global networks and to advocate for us with their governments, which maintain relations with Equatorial Guinea, so they put pressure on ours to provide a favourable environment for civil society.

    Civic space in Equatorial Guinea is rated as ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor.
    Get in touch with CEID through their website or visit their Facebook page.

     

  • Statement: Equatorial Guinea's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement on Equatorial Guinea's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    Mr President, EG Justice, Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo, ONG – Cooperación y Desarrollo, and CIVICUS welcome the government of Equatorial Guinea’s engagement with the UPR process and particularly for accepting 202 of 221 UPR recommendations.

    We regret that since its last examination, recommendations pertaining to safeguarding civic space and fundamental freedoms have not been implemented by the Equatorial Guinean government. Serious restrictions to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, and expression have increased. And the general situation of human rights has worsened.

    We are deeply concerned by the government’s recent pronouncements that it has closed the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID) – one of the few civil society organisations raising concerns over human rights violations. Human rights defenders, activists and members of the political opposition continue to be subjected to violence, repression, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, detention and harassment. Human rights defender Alfredo Okenve was brutally assaulted by security agents in November 2018 and was arrested and his movement restricted in March 2019 after he was invited to receive an award for his human rights activities. In February 2019, activist Joaquin Elo Ayet was arbitrary arrested, tortured and detained for an extended period without charges for his campaigns against corrupt practices and human rights violations.

    Freedom of expression is severely constrained as most media outlets are controlled by the state or the family of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema and the intimidation and harassment of journalists force many to self-censor. Freedom of association is restricted by onerous registration processes for civil society and the refusal of the government to recognize labour unions.

    EG Justice, Centro de Estudios e Iniciativas para el Desarrollo, ONG – Cooperación y Desarrollo, and CIVICUS call on the Government of Equatorial Guinea to immediately and urgently take proactive measures to implement all UPR recommendations, particularly pertaining to removing restrictive laws and practices that undermine civic space, and to create an enabling environment for journalists and human rights defenders and activists to work without fear of reprisals.