APROFORT: addressing realities and seizing opportunities in Equatorial Guinea

In the last years Equatorial Guinea has received several recommendations from Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee at the UN. It has also reactivated the accreditation process in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Due to negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, the government has signed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). In addition, within the framework of the CPLP, the government has also pledged to abolish the death penalty as a condition to be part of this institutions. Finally, the government pledged its commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Socially there is a small critical mass of youth concerned about their future and are using cultural means and social media to express their views. These youth are planting a seed of hope that should be grown.

Unfortunately, development initiatives have failed even when the resources were abundant. Attacks on activists, journalist or political opponents are recorded on a regular basis. Corruption has also proven to be one of the heaviest barriers for development in the country. For instance, the vice president of the country has been prosecuted internationally, and the funds seized need to be given back to the population in a manner that can lay the grounds for future sustainability.

In such realities and opportunities, TI-PT is in a privileged position to push for changes through a new initiative called APROFORT: “Support, protection and strengthening of civil society activists and organizations in their work to promote human rights” in Equatorial Guinea, funded by the EU.

Objectives of APROFORT

The general objective is to provide support, protection and capacity building to civil society activists and organizations working in the promotion of human rights and good governance. This will be measured by the achievement of three primary results:

  • The abolition of the death penalty.
  • The effective protection of activists, organisations, and vulnerable minority groups.
  • Increased compliance with the millennium development commitments and human rights.

An improvement in human rights and governance in the country will come through the protection of activists, women and LGBTIQ+ members, as well as the strengthening of civil society in both areas. A stronger civil society can hold the government accountable and push for reforms.

Three axes: support, protection and strengthening

The support will be provided through sub grants to local civil society organizations so that, in the performance of their functions, they can execute activities in line with APROFORT. This support will include awareness raising activities in collaboration with cultural organizations.

The protection for activists will be provided to those who are harassed due to their work. A legal clinic will be designed for those directly attacked.  Furthermore, the protection work stream will pay special attention to the right to education of women and girls, helping those sexually extorted and those banned from attending school due to pregnancy. Finally, protection will also be provided to the LGTBQ community whenever they are not treated as human beings.

The strengthening of capacities of CSOs will focus, firstly, in personal protection of activists on how to prevent risk situations as well as protocols if these risks occur, and secondly, training on research and producing reports for international monitoring mechanisms, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Convention for Against Corruption, or the Sustainable Development Goals. These capacities will be backed by an Observatory on Human Rights and Governance that will produce reliable data for the reports.

Gender equality as a crosscutting component

The legal clinic will establish mechanisms that are sensitive to the type of cases that are received based on gender discrimination. Extremely high priority will also be given to women activists in the legal assistance or assistance provided; the observatory of human rights and good governance will develop indicators on the impact of human rights violations and corruption on women in a differentiated manner; the training of social organizations will prioritize gender equality organizations to conduct studies and draft reports.

Country profile

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country (28 thousand sq. Km), sandwiched between Cameroon and Gabon in its mainland territory. It has a population of 1.2m. The capital city, Malabo, is in the island of Bioko formerly known as Fernando Poo. Among the other islands is Annobón, named by the first Portuguese sailors reaching its shores. Both islands were used by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and Spanish for the slave trade. Later, Bioko also became a strategic base for abolitionists. The country gained its independence in 1968 from Spain, hence the official language is Spanish, although more than other 5 local languages are spoken (Fang, Bubi, Ndowe, Bisio or Fa d’ambo are just the main ones).

The president Teodoro Obiang has been in power since 1979, he is the longest non-royal serving leader. He seized power after a coup that ended 11 years of bloody reign of his own uncle. He is regularly elected with more than 90% of the votes in elections marred by irregularities according to observers. His son, Nguema Obiang, nicknamed “Teodorín”, is the vice president. His other son, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, is the minister of oil in a country that is the third largest oil producer in Africa.

On governance, the Ibrahim’s Index of African Governance considers the country as one of the bottom 5 performing in Africa, showing an “increased deterioration” in the last 5 years; the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International places the country among the 10 most corrupt countries in the world and with the lowest score among the CPLP countries. This situation has a clear impact on basic rights, hence Freedom House classifies the country as “not free” in its latest report; the latest World Press Freedom Index places the country in position 165/180; and UNDP’s Human Development Index score for Equatorial Guinea has stagnated for more than a decade despite the oil revenues.