Susan Page Visits Equatorial Guinea

Susan Page Visits Equatorial Guinea

May 19, 2011
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A summary of two meetings that U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Page held with opposition parties during her recent trip to Equatorial Guinea.

Source: ASODEGUE (Translated by EG Justice)

United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Page met with both government officials from the ruling party and members of two political opposition parties during her recent visit to Equatorial Guinea. Yesterday she met in Malabo with representatives of opposition political parties as well as civil society organizations. In previous days she had met with the dictator and other members of the government in Bata.

Meeting with the opposition political party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (Convergence for Social Democracy)

At 11:00 a.m. yesterday Ms. Page met with Plácido Micó and Pablo Mba Nzang, members of the opposition political party Convergencia para la Democracia Social (CPDS), at the headquarters of CPDS. Ms. Page was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea, Alberto Fernandez, and another U.S. Embassy official. Two Equatoguinean government officials— either from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or possibly from the secret service—were also present. According to the Equatoguineans, the meeting was cordial yet positive. The CPDS delegates provided a detailed description of the situation in the country, making reference to the harsh conditions under which citizens live and the precarious environment in which political parties are forced to operate. They stated that corruption and a lack of democracy are defining characteristics of the political situation in Equatorial Guinea. They noted that the laws that govern the exercise of basic rights are violated, and that the officials who violated these rights (with, they asserted, the obvious knowledge of the Head of State) enjoy total impunity. The CPDS representatives alleged that opposition members are harassed at their jobs and get expelled from government posts. They asserted that, in general, Equatoguinean citizens live in an environment of intimidation and insecurity. According to the party delegates, the ruling regime provides a false image of plurality, while in truth Equatoguineans are not able to form unions or women’s or youth organizations. As a result, Equatorial Guinea has a fragmented and intimidated society.

The CPDS delegation, referring to the supposed process of “constitutional change” that is occurring in the country, called the three modifications proposed by the dictator “misleading” and “irrelevant”. They insisted that the primary problem is not a “lack of laws, as much as it is a failure to carry out those already in existence.” The party delegates also highlighted what they considered to be “the waste of oil money.” Referring to public works, they cited in particular the construction of new cities (e.g. Malabo II) and stated that it is an absurd plan “to create new cities when Malabo and Bata, for example, lack basic needs like running water.” Regarding the government’s failure to fulfill existing laws, they pointed to the electoral process, noting that while the law guarantees free and secret voting, at election time leaders of the ruling party Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, or PDGE)—or even the president himself—openly call for a “public vote”. The CPDS delegates used the example of government provided housing as evidence that the government is wasting oil money: “We hear a lot about social housing. Who are the recipients of these homes? It is never the citizens who need them, but members of PDGE, who can have up to 20 houses and rent them to individuals or businesses.”

Ms. Page encouraged the CPDS delegates to continue their struggle, which she described as “hard, difficult, and dangerous.” She stated that U.S. policy toward Equatorial Guinea remained unchanged and that the U.S. delegate had insisted to President Obiang that it was not enough to say things in speeches, but rather, that it was imperative to implement the things outlined in speeches and to demonstrate with actions a willingness to change. She stated that the establishment of high level collaboration between the U.S. and Equatoguinean governments was conditioned on the country having freedom for political parties and civil society organizations.

The meeting lasted just over one hour.

Meeting with the political opposition party Unión Popular (Popular Union)

At 2:30 p.m., the U.S. delegation met with representatives of the Unión Popular (UP) party at the party’s headquarters. The UP was represented by the party’s president, Daniel Dario Martinez Ayécaba, general secretary Jerónimo Ndong, and its foreign affairs representative Avelino Mocache. The U.S. delegation was comprised of Ms. Page, Alberto Fernandez, and another U.S. Embassy official. Two Equatoguinean government officials, whose affiliation was unclear, were also in attendance. The U.S. delegation expressed its desire that Equatorial Guinea become a democratic country in which political parties and civil society organizations can operate freely. The delegation stressed the need for President Obiang to fulfill the commitments that he has referenced in speeches. 

The representatives of UP noted the importance that they attached to dialogue in their political activities, stressing the need for “a real dialogue between all of the political elements that expresses the various interests of Equatoguinean society.” They asserted that liberties do not exist in Equatorial Guinea, including freedom of the press and the freedom to organize unions and other types of organizations. The UP delegates maintained that the problem was not so much “to enact new laws as much as [it was about] carrying out those already in existence.” In regards to President Obiang’s proposed constitutional changes, the UP representatives expressed their willingness to participate in the reform process, but only if allowed to participate as equals and with certain conditions. “We are ready to assist if Obiang meets a number of essential conditions,” they asserted.

The meeting lasted just over an hour and was described as cordial and positive by the UP representatives.

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