The Guardian interviews Tutu Alicante, a prominent Equatoguinean human rights activist based in the US. Excerpts:
Do any organisations like EG Justice exist within Equatorial Guinea?
There is not a single human rights organisation or anti-corruption organisation in the country. [...] If you were to try and register one, your paperwork would lie in the ministry of interior forever. You wouldn’t get authorised to exist.
Inside the country you can register NGOs to do children’s education work, women’s empowerment work, anything the government perceives as non-threatening. Anything involving democracy or human rights will get you beaten or harassed. [...]
Although there is an official opposition party, its influence is negligible [...]. Civil society too is neutered. Are there any other organisations or institutions – perhaps religious, cultural or labour – that could instigate change?
It’s a very small country. Any group that the government perceives as sufficiently powerful is immediately co-opted. [...] So churches, for instance, which in many other places have provided an avenue for people to gather and discuss issues and organise, are completely co-opted by the government. There are no unions or labour organisations. So you don’t have spaces for citizens to come together and organise, or even assemble – any meeting you want to hold in Equatorial Guinea with more than five people, you have to have a permit from the government.
So where will change come from?
Change must come from a few different places, one is young people. We have to find creative ways of organising them. In Egypt for example, social networks played a key role in getting people to the street at the right moment, getting messages out, not just to people in the country but outside the country. So finding creative ways of organising people who still have very limited access to internet but still have a mobile phone is something we are looking at. How do we get to these young people inside the country? There are a growing number of young people using Facebook and other forums to discuss issues that inside the country you cannot discuss, and people are starting internet-based radio [stations].
Another avenue is supporting the decrepit political opposition group that exists. The US for instance has a long history and tradition of supporting political parties, in places like Cuba, Venezuela. Equatorial Guinea needs that. Equatorial Guinea needs [organisations like] the National Institute for Democracy and International Republican Institute to find creative ways of working with the opposition inside… if you are going to continue to do business with Obiang, you should be able to make that contingent on having a radio [station] or something that allows for freedom of expression inside the country.