Freedom in the World 2017 - Equatorial Guinea

Freedom Status: Not Free
Aggregate Score: 8 (0 = Least Free, 100 = Most Free)
Freedom Rating: 7.0 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Political Rights: 7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)
Civil Liberties: 7 (1 = Most Free, 7 = Least Free)

Quick Facts

Population: 900,000
Capital: Malabo
GDP/capita: $14,440
Press Freedom Status: Not Free


Equatorial Guinea holds regular elections, but the voting is neither free nor fair. The current president, who took power in a military coup that deposed his uncle, has led a highly repressive authoritarian regime since 1979. Oil wealth and political power are concentrated in the hands of the president's family. The government frequently detains the few opposition politicians in the country, and cracks down on any civil society groups that have the slightest appearance of being politically engaged. The government also censors and harasses the country's small number of journalists, including those who work for state media. The judiciary is under presidential control, and security forces engage in torture and other violence with impunity.

Key Developments in 2016:

  • President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo was awarded a new seven-year term in a tightly controlled presidential election in April. The main opposition party boycotted the vote.

  • In June, Obiang appointed one of his sons to serve as the sole vice president, a post that made him the legal successor to the 74-year-old incumbent.

Executive Summary:

President Obiang was credited with 93.5 percent of the vote in the April 2016 presidential election. As with previous elections, the campaign took place in a highly restrictive environment. In March, the government suspended the activities of the Center for the Study and Initiatives for Development, a prominent civil society group. The main opposition party, Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), boycotted the election, and other factions faced police violence, detentions, and torture. One opposition figure who had been barred from running for president, Gabriel Nse Obiang Obono, was put under house arrest during the election, and police used live ammunition against supporters gathered at his home.

One of the president's sons, Teodoro "Teodorín" Nguema Obiang Mangue, was appointed in June to serve as the sole vice president, essentially confirming speculation that he was being groomed to succeed his father. There have been reports, however, that some political elites do not support Teodorín's succession. He had previously held the title of "second vice president," a position that did not exist in the constitution. Teodorín remained the focus of several international money-laundering investigations during the year.

Explanatory Note:

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Equatorial Guinea, see Freedom in the World 2016.

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