M. Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene, First Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs, Democracy and Minister of Internal Affairs and Local Corporations notified CEID on March 16 a resolution that suspended “all activities until further notice” for “disseminating among the Equatoguinean youth messages aimed at inciting to violence and civil disobedience”. The Ministry’s allegations that during the forum “interventions were made that hinted at incitement to violence and comments were made that could be prone to stirring up a youth revolution” are untrue and unsubstantiated.
The Youth Forum on Tolerance and development in Equatorial Guinea, was organized by CEID from 29 to 31 January in collaboration with several institutions, including the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The forum, the first of its kind in the country, had gathered more than 120 participants from across the country, including young professionals from various sectors and staff of the Directorate General for Youth. After the first day, the forum was interrupted and suspended without any administrative procedure in place by senior officials of the Ministry of Interior and the Governor of “Litoral” Province, Amado Nguema Owono.
To CEID this is yet another example of the restrictive and hostile environment civil society is forced to operate in to play its role for a sustainable development. In particular, this actions adds up to the increasing harassment and intimidation faced by CEID in the last couple of years, in which the organization has become the motor in the fight for an independent an strengthen civil society. Since May 2010, one of CEID’s high level members has been and still is arbitrarily fired from his position as professor at the National University of Equatorial Guinea for non-work related “orders”. In July of 2011, the Ministry of Interior without any justification, ordered the suspension of a training workshop on NGO management for civil society organizations facilitated by CEID in Bata.
CEID has already filed administrative appeal for a “null and void” action, as the resolution clearly violates Equatoguinean law.
Faced with these new attacks by the Ministry of Interior, CEID would like to clarify the following:
1. CEID is an Equatoguinean nonprofit organization that has been working for the country's development since its legal registration in 1998. CEID’s activities have always abide to the law of Equatorial Guinea, despite the difficulties, limitations and impairments by the Ministry of Interior.
2. The Youth Forum was directly and effectively supported by the Ministry of Youth and is part of the activities to promote the country’s development envisioned in the organization’s statutes.
3. CEID categorically denies the veracity of the allegations made by the Minister of Interior, which can only qualify as false, as they could only derive from vague biased judgments or the sole imagination of the person making them, as they absolutely lack objectivity. The interventions and comments referred to by the Ministry, could not be even attributed directly or indirectly to members of CEID. Just by the title of the forum, one would know that it seeks to address in a peaceful, civilized and open manner issues on education around values and other topics of interest for the young participants. These activities were conducted without any complaints whatsoever and in full collaboration with the government’s department responsible of the youth sector.
4. The views expressed by participants during the only session that was conducted of the Forum, are protected by the individual right to freedom of speech recognized in article 13.1 b) of the National Constitution, and cannot constitute the grounds for suspending the activities of an organization like CEID.
5. These recurring measures by the Ministry of Interior not only contravene basic rights and the development of youth and civil society, but could lead to more frustration by these sectors, especially young people that could on the contrary lead to a violent response, something we fully condemn.
6. These actions taken by the Ministry of Interior only aim to block the strengthening of national civil society as a development actor in view of the fact that they:
• Contravene the basic rules laid out in law num. 5/2006 of Administrative Procedures.
• Contravene the General Associations Law and the required guarantee of the fundamental freedoms of association and expression protected by the Constitution (art. 13);
• Contravene international treaties ratified by the country, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 19, 21 and 22) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Art. 10).
7. According to national and international commitments States, including Equatorial Guinea, are responsible for promoting and protecting freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and the right to participate in public affairs.
8. If the government of Equatorial Guinea upholds this decision, would be failing to meet the commitments to support civil society made during the renewed application process to the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), as well as its commitments to the Human Rights Council during the 2014 Universal Periodic Review on freedom of expression, assembly and association (134.72) and human rights defenders (134.68, 135.70; 135.71, and134.72).
Therefore CEID urges the lifting of the suspension; warns the national and international public opinion on the risk posed by suspending one of the most important civil society organizations in Equatorial Guinea; cautions that these measures are a serious setback for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as a blow to civil society, one of the most important pillars of sustainable development for any country.
March 23 of 2016, Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
Board of Directors:
Dr. Enrique Asumu (President)
D. Mariano Nkogo (First Deputy)
D. Alfredo Okenve (Second Deputy)
D. Ignacio Euka (Secretary General)
Phone numbers: +240 333 08 06 94 / +240 222 27 58 94 / +240 222 66 54 14