(Tampa, August 31, 2015) The Government of Equatorial Guinea should immediately release the nine peaceful demonstrators detained in the city of Rebola on August 25, cease the violations of fundamental freedom of expression against members of Casa de Cultura de Rebola (CCR), and reinstate the management team at that cultural center.
“The Equatoguinean government’s recurrent practice of arbitrarily detaining and silencing independent voices makes clear that the government is not prepared to hold clean and fair elections or to participate in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative—a global enterprise that includes independent civil society participation,” said Tutu Alicante, Executive Director of EG Justice.
The Casa de Cultura de Rebola (CCR), which up-to-date had been independently managed by local volunteers, was temporarily closed on August 25th as result of the protests that arose after the government dismissed the center’s management team.
EG Justice learned that citing concerns about the lyrics of hip-hop music produced by a young artist at the center, led the Minister of Interior Clemente Engonga Nguema Onguene, to dismiss the volunteer management team and vowed to appoint a new team composed of members of the ruling political party, the Partido Democratico de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE). According to Mr. Engonga, the music and other work of the CCR “go against the ideals of the ruling party and are unconstitutional; thus, to avoid future mistakes, members from the local PDGE office should take over the management of the cultural center.”
On the night of August 25, a crowd from the community of Rebola, comprised of mostly children and adolescents, took to the streets to protest the government’s decision to change CCR’s management. According to EG Justice’s sources around 50 armed police officers showed up and verbally abused the crowd. Additionally, the officers resorted to using tear gas and excessive violence to detain nine of the residents who had gathered in the area. Later, military forces showed up and closed off the access road in and out of Rebola. The detained include: Esteban Pite (16 yrs), Ivan Mata (18 yrs), Fidel Banke (34 yrs), Cesar Copoboru (50 yrs), Higinio Sikoko (20 yrs), Gabriel Cardenes (26 yrs), Masa Alcantara (36 yrs), Piter Johnson, and FNU Bosio (23 yrs).
“The alarming news about arrests of youth from Rebola and the dismissal of the management team are calls for serious concern,” said Tutu Alicante. “Ahead of the 2016 presidential elections, we anticipated attacks against the opposition and independent foreign media, but this blatant violation of freedom of expression, association, and assembly against a cultural center marks a new low in the government ability to repress independent or dissenting voices.”
For more information, please contact:
In Tampa, for EG Justice, Tutu Alicante, (English, Spanish): +1-615-479-0207 (cell); firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @TutuAlicante @EGJustice