News: Civil society leader and leading human rights activist attacked in Equatorial Guinea

Statement

Plain-clothed security officers in Equatorial Guinea have reportedly severely beaten and stabbed Alfredo Okenve, a leading civil society activist and Vice-president of the Center for Development Studies and Initiatives (CEID). Okenve said the men forced him out of his car at gunpoint on 27 October and carried out a prolonged attack, before abandoning him on deserted land.

Article 19, CIVICUS, EG Justice, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, NRGI, Oxfam America and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) join other international organisations including Amnesty International in strongly condemning this brutal assault.

“Alfredo Okenve is a prominent anti-corruption and human rights activist with a track record in promoting good governance, including in the extractive sector. He and CEID have the right to carry out this important work unimpeded,” said PWYP’s Executive Director, Elisa Peter.

Equatorial Guinea’s government has not responded to requests for comment on the allegations. Alfredo Okenve said the attackers appeared to have been targeting his brother Celestino, head of an opposition political party, but continued to beat him even after confirming his identity – the latest in a string of assaults and harassments he has endured on the part of the authorities.

Equatorial Guinea has twice attempted to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a leading multi-stakeholder initiative for transparency and good governance in the extractives sector. These applications, in 2010 and 2014, were both rejected due to unjustified crackdowns on civil society activists, including Alfredo Okenve, whose organisation was suspended in 2016 and who suffered arbitrary detentions in 2017.

The country is applying for a third time to join the EITI this year, as a precondition for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider giving the government a loan. We urge the EITI to consider this new application only if the government of Equatorial Guinea addresses civic space issues seriously and consistently, and brings those responsible for the recent attack on Alfredo Okenve to justice. We also call for oil companies operating in Equatorial Guinea – especially on the EITI Board – and other EITI-supporting companies to immediately denounce this attack as unfit for a country wishing to rejoin the initiative.

“While PWYP welcomes Equatorial Guinea’s efforts to join the EITI, the government‘s continuing repression of civil society suggests a lack of genuine commitment to the principles of citizen participation and accountability in the governance of the country’s oil wealth,” said PWYP Africa Steering Committee Chair, Tiemoko Sangare. “At a time when the country is reapplying for EITI membership – albeit linked to conditions for an IMF loan – the government is clearly violating the EITI Standard, which requires it to provide an enabling environment for civil society.

PWYP calls on Equatorial Guinea to commit in deed as well as word to the EITI Standard, starting with allowing civil society activists to play their oversight role free from abuse.

We will continue our practical and moral support for civil society in the country – and all other countries where PWYP members face repression in their efforts to ensure that natural resources are used for the benefit of all citizens.”

Signed by

Article 19

CIVICUS

EG Justice

Global Witness

Human Rights Watch

ICAR

NRGI

Oxfam America

Publish What You Pay

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