Government Uses Ebola to Discredit Opposition

Government Uses Ebola to Discredit Opposition

EG Justice April 15, 2015
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The government of Equatorial Guinea, in an effort to discredit its critics ahead of the upcoming elections, is using the Ebola crises to further stigmatize opposition leaders by accusing them of planning to bring the disease into the country.

April 15, 2015 (Tampa, Florida) The government of Equatorial Guinea, in an effort to discredit its critics, is using the Ebola crises to further stigmatize opposition leaders by accusing them of planning to bring the disease into the country.

Earlier this year, in the midst of popular fear of the Ebola virus and mistrust about the national preparedness in the case of an outbreak when the nation hosted the Cup of African Nations (CAN), the government of Equatorial Guinea accused opposition leaders of plotting to bring an Ebola-infected patient into the country to spread the disease and put at risk the national security.

On February 3, Mr. Crisantos Obama Ondo, the Equatoguinean Representative at the Food and Agriculture Organization, used his social media Facebook account to accuse opposition leaders of flying to Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia in mid-January with the aim of “buying the ebola virus.” According to his statements, the opposition leaders contacted family members of an infected patient “to negotiate his transportation to Equatorial Guinea as a CAN staff”. Three days later the Minister of Education, Lucas Nguema Esono Mbang, in response to the disturbances caused in Malabo during the Ghana-Equatorial Guinea match confirmed this accusation before a large group of university students.

In early March, state radio and TV services picked up these accusations and informed that an investigation by the Inspector General Responsible for Personnel and Logistics of the Ministry of National Security had been opened.

In response on March 2, Andres Esono Ondo, leader of the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) party through lawyer Ponciano Mbomio presented a  conciliatory  pleading requesting the judiciary to investigate the issue before he proceeds to seek criminal charges against Mr. Obama Ondo.

On March 19, Mr. Obama Ondo appeared on state TV to reiterate his accusations affirming he had been contacted by the family of an Ebola victim through Facebook, who told him they were contacted by opposition leaders from Equatorial Guinea who “promised to help evacuate the Ebola patient to a foreign country and pay the family 150,000 euros”.  Also interviewed, was Mr. Robustiano Ela Nguema, the Inspector General in charge of the investigation in this case. He asserted his office was making progress in the investigation, and that “soon the parties involved would be summoned to the police”.

Accordingly, Mr. Andres Esono Ondo of the CPDS party has been called twice, on of March 28 and in April 7, to testify at the Ministry of National Security despite the pending conciliatory measure pleading filed by his lawyer with the relevant court.

“Permitting government appointed officials to disparage opposition leaders, and using the state media apparatus to further allegations aimed at stigmatizing government critics is an open invitation to serious abuse that can only undermine the already weak state and government institutions.  These tactics call into question President Obiang and his ruling party’s commitment to a democratic process in the country,” said Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice.

 “Until Equatorial Guinea can ensure the impartiality and independence of the judiciary, it is hard to see how any ongoing investigations into this case will be fair and protect the rights of the accused ” added Mr. Alicante.

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