Despite being the third largest oil producing country in sub-Saharan Africa, Equatorial Guinea reels from a poor economy, a lack of good governance and of independent and functioning state institutions. These issues were the focus of presentations made by human rights defenders from Equatorial Guinea in a World Council of Churches (WCC) sponsored side-event at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The event was organized by the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, in collaboration with EG Justice and the International Network of Human Rights (INHR) on 27 March. It featured panellists from Equatorial Guinea, who spoke about human right violations in the country and urged attention from the UN and the international community to help resolve the situation.
INHR’s director Ramon Munoz Castro, reading a statement on behalf of Gustavo Gallon, former Special Rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea, stated that “violation of human rights is systematic” in Equatorial Guinea.
He emphasized that human rights violations highlighted at the previous Universal Periodic Review (UPRs) must be transformed into necessary reforms in the country. Thus he stressed the importance of re-establishing the post of UN Special Rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea, which can significantly contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Tutu Alicante, lawyer and executive director of EG Justice, underlined the issue of
corruption in Equatorial Guinea. Speaking about the weakness of state institutions in the country, he said that “corruption is the only thing which seems to be working”.
Alicante said that since previous UPRs on Equatorial Guinea, the situation hasn’t changed much. It is, therefore, a “moral obligation” for the UN and international community to promote protection of human rights in the country, Alicante said.
Alfredo Okeneve Ndoho, secretary general of the CEID Equatorial Guinea, called the autocratic regime responsible for human rights violations. He said that despite an abundance of resources, regressive socio-economic situations and poor welfare systems persist.
Protection of human rights and dialogue
Wenceslao Mansogo, another human rights defender from Equatorial Guinea, expressed his hopes for the UN to help protect civil and political rights of people in the country.
Mansogo went on to say that human rights defenders are persecuted, and dissent is often suppressed violently, and “fair judicial trials have become a utopia in Equatorial Guinea”.
It is therefore important to promote a strong civil society and national dialogue, aiming to cease human rights violations, unfair trials, arbitrary detentions and impunity, Mansogo added.
Christina Papazoglou, WCC programme executive for human rights, stated there is a need to support and enhance the capacity of human rights activists in the country, churches included, and build up strong international networks and partnerships to support their work on the ground.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Equatorial Guinea, a WCC member church, has a “strong interest in being more actively engaged in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country,” said Papazoglou.
“We believe that churches and faith-based organizations, not only in Equatorial Guinea but worldwide, have played on many occasions and can continue to play an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights. Churches are deeply rooted in the communities and they can support positive changes at the grassroots level,” she said.
Equatorial Guinea will be reviewed under the UPR mechanism on 5 May.