The arrest of at least nine activists who were trying to organize a peaceful demonstration in Equatorial Guinea is further evidence of the authorities’ determination to clamp down on free speech ahead of up-coming elections, Amnesty International said.
Two of those arrested were Clara Nsegue Eyi and Natalia Angue Edjodjomo, the founders of the newly created party Partido Democrático de la Justicia Social (Democratic Party for Social Justice) and coordinators of the Movimiento de Protesta Popular ( People’s Protest Movement). They were detained on 13 May and are reportedly being held incommunicado at Malabo Central Police Station.
They were planning to host a peaceful protest on 15 May to demand the registration of their political party, which the authorities had previously refused to allow.
Jerónimo Ndong, Secretary General of the opposition party Unión Popular (People’s Union), who was also involved in the organization of the protest, was arrested this morning. He too is being held at the Central Police Station.
These are the latest in a new wave of arrests of activists that began on 8 May, as the country prepares to hold a general elections on 26 May.
“The authorities in Equatorial Guinea are heading a terrifying detention campaign targeting anyone who dares compete with them in the elections,” said.Noel Kututwa, Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
“The wave of arrests and harassment against pro-democracy activists documented in the last week is casting a dark shadow over the upcoming elections.”
Enrique Nsolo Nzo, a university teacher, was arrested on 8 May. He was preparing a banner for the demonstration with a group of students when six youths beat him and dragged him to a police car waiting outside.
He was taken to Malabo Central Police Station where he was interrogated in front of television cameras. He was asked why they wanted to demonstrate and if they had permission. Nsolo Nzo was released later that day without charge and was dismissed from his teaching posts.
On 14 May his father, Marcelo Nzo Nsue and his elder brother, Zenón Nsue Nzo, were arrested and taken to Malabo. Both are still being held at the Ministry of Interior. The reasons for their detention are not known.
Members of the opposition party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (Convergence for social Democracy), one of the two opposition parties taking part in the elections, were harassed and briefly detained as the electoral campaign opened.
Equatorial Guineans will go to the polls on May 26 to elect members of a new parliament as well as local council members across the country.
Voters will also elect, for the first time, 55 members of a new Senate established in accordance with the revised constitution passed in February 2012. The remaining 15 senators will be directly appointed by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has been in power since 1979.
The government and the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) party, led by President Obiang, have a track record of cracking down on political opponents ahead of elections, often citing “security reasons” and suspected coup attempts.
The ruling PDGE benefits from a virtual monopoly on power, funding, and access to the national media, while political opponents face severe constraints. Opposition members are pressured through various means, including arbitrary arrest and harassment.