The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Equatorial Guinea

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 4 July 2012
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2012 - Equatorial Guinea, 4 July 2012, available at: [accessed 14 November 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 720,200
Capital: Malabo

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2002200320042005200620072008200920102011

2011 Key Developments: The African Union selected Equatorial Guinea to host its 17th summit in 2011, despite the country's reputation as one of the most repressive states in sub-Saharan Africa. The event highlighted the abuse practices of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's regime, with security forces reportedly detaining hundreds of suspected dissidents during the lead-up to the summit. In a process described by watchdog organizations as flawed, a constitutional referendum approved in November granted the president increased powers.

Political Rights: Equatorial Guinea is not an electoral democracy. The 2009 presidential election, which resulted in Obiang securing another seven-year term, reportedly featured intimidation and harassment of the opposition by security forces and restrictions on foreign observers. President Obiang dominates the political system. The 100 members of the unicameral House of People's Representatives wield little power, and 99 seats are held by the ruling pro-presidential coalition. A 2011 referendum approved the creation of a new bicameral parliament in which each body is to be directly elected for five-year terms, but the president will be able to appoint a still-undetermined number of members to the upper house. The activities of the few opposition parties are closely monitored by the government. Equatorial Guinea is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and most major business transactions cannot go forward without the inclusion of an individual connected to the regime. Obiang and members of his inner circle continue to amass huge personal fortunes stemming from the oil industry.

Civil Liberties: Although the constitution guarantees press freedom, the 1992 press law authorizes government censorship. Libel remains a criminal offense, and all journalists are required to register with the government. The state holds a monopoly on broadcast media, with the exception of RTV-Asonga, a private radio and television outlet owned by the president's son. In February 2011, the regime forbade media outlets from reporting on the political unrest in the Arab world. A radio host was suspended for mentioning Libya during a broadcast, and was reportedly assaulted by a state official's bodyguard while leaving the station. The constitution protects religious freedom, though in practice it is sometimes affected by the country's broader political repression, and official preference is given to the Roman Catholic Church and the Reform Church of Equatorial Guinea. Freedoms of assembly and association are severely restricted, and political gatherings must have official authorization to proceed. The few international nongovernmental organizations in the country promote social and economic improvements rather than political and civil rights. The constitution provides for the right to organize unions, but there are many legal barriers to collective bargaining. The judiciary is not independent. Civil cases rarely go to trial, and military tribunals handle national security cases. Prison conditions are deplorable, and the country has been internationally condemned for holding detainees in secret, denying them access to lawyers, and jailing them for long periods without charge. All citizens are required to obtain exit visas to travel abroad, and some members of opposition parties have been denied such visas. Constitutional and legal guarantees of equality for women are largely ignored, and violence against women is reportedly widespread. Women hold just 6 percent of the seats in the House of People's Representatives; however, the 2011 referendum explicitly commits the government to adopting measures to increase women's representation and participation in institutional functions.

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