Equatorial Guinea is nominally a multiparty constitutional republic. All branches of government are dominated by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who has ruled since seizing power in a military coup in 1979, and his clan from the majority Fang ethnic group. International election observers judged the May 2008 legislative elections to be peaceful, orderly, and an improvement compared to the seriously flawed 2004 legislative and 2002 presidential elections; however, there were credible reports and evidence of electoral irregularities, and allegations by the opposition of fraud and harassment of opposition supporters. The government's human rights record remains poor, although there were some notable governmental efforts in 2008 to improve respect for human rights. The following human rights problems were reported: limited ability of citizens to change their government; increased reports of unlawful killings by security forces; government-sanctioned kidnappings; systematic torture of prisoners and detainees by security forces; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; impunity; arbitrary arrest, detention, and incommunicado detention; harassment and deportation of foreign residents with limited due process; judicial corruption and lack of due process; restrictions on the right to privacy; restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press; restrictions on the rights of assembly, association, and movement; government corruption; violence and discrimination against women; suspected trafficking in persons; discrimination against ethnic minorities; and restrictions on labor rights.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Key U.S. priorities for furthering democracy and human rights in the country are: strengthening government and civil institutions, including opposition parties and the nascent civil society; enhancing security forces' respect for human rights; supporting anticorruption efforts, including promoting greater transparency in the management of oil revenues and fiscal transparency in government ministries; continuing to promote greater political pluralism and a legitimate electoral process in advance of the next presidential election; and improving the government’s performance in key social sectors such as health and education.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
Presidential elections scheduled for late 2009 or early 2010 offer specific opportunities to encourage progress toward democratization and respect for human rights. In May 2008 U.S. officials monitored legislative and municipal elections. The United States will continue to underline the need for electoral reforms, including the establishment of an independent national electoral commission, in discussions with the government prior to the upcoming presidential elections.
The U.S. Government directly engages top government officials, including the president, on the country’s human rights record. To highlight reforms needed to address the country’s human rights problems, U.S. officials have conducted occasional site visits to detention facilities and advocated for political prisoner releases. In the fall of 2008 the United States hosted visits by a U.S. official to conduct an assessment on democracy and human rights and an international democracy promotion organization. The United States also discussed with the government the advantages of rescheduling a visit from the UN special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of torture, originally planned at the beginning of 2008. Following these efforts the government reduced the number of political prisoners and invited the UN rapporteur to assess conditions in detention facilities. In addition, U.S. officials continue to urge the government to immediately address the deficiencies in the penal and judicial systems highlighted in November 2008 by the UN rapporteur on torture, and to allow unfettered monitoring of all its detention facilities. In addition, the United States continues to advocate for the establishment of formal mechanisms to support victims of trafficking in persons and to encourage active measures against traffickers.
To further the development of independent media and press freedom, the United States continues to encourage networking with international journalists' associations, distribute supporting materials, host workshops, and utilize public speaking opportunities to convey the importance of the media's role in building a democratic society. Members of the press are regularly invited to U.S. events that stress the democratic process. For example, the United States hosted journalists at a media event covering the November 2008 U.S. presidential election. To foster greater transparency, good governance, and the development of civil society, the United States continues to urge the government to adhere to its commitments to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a multinational civil society initiative designed to foster accountability in extractive industries and promote the freedom and development of civil society organizations. In addition, to assist the government’s efforts to improve its performance in key social sectors, the United States continues to provide technical assistance to the government to benefit the Social Development Fund, a bilateral effort (funded by the government) to improve delivery of social services in sectors such as education, health, and women’s affairs.
The United States continues to promote democracy and human rights though public diplomacy. For example, in 2008 the United States assisted with the printing and distribution of legal texts to improve public understanding of the law and its protections; sponsored performances of local theater groups to underscore the importance of respect for human rights; and supported a film festival focusing on human rights issues. The United States will continue to utilize event-driven opportunities such as press interviews, Martin Luther King Day, and the United States' Independence Day to underline the importance of and foster greater understanding of human rights and democracy.