Thursday, July 1, 2010

Equatorial Guinea: Massive Reforms Promised

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema in a speech on June 28 in Cape Town, South Africa, announced a five-point "comprehensive reform and transparency programme" for Equatorial Guinea that he described as historic.

The reform package was to address much of the "criticisms of my government and even of my family," many of which the President said he believed to be "untrue and published without full assessment of the facts."

President Obiang is widely criticised to rule the country as his family's private property, without any respect for human rights, democracy or rule of law. The country's vast oil revenues are said to be mostly channelled to his family and clan, with the Equatoguinean population still living in utter poverty.

The Equatoguinean leader promised to address these unmentioned criticisms by implementing a five-point programme during ten years "in close cooperation with the world community, the African Union and non-governmental organisations."

First, government would seek to "ensure transparency and accountability" in the oil sector. An "Extractive Industries Transparency Reform" would strengthen Equatorial Guinea's efforts to qualify for membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), thus securing investors.

Second, government was to "expand the current Social Development Fund by investing substantial resources from oil exploration revenues and other natural resources into our children, our schools, our teachers, health care, tourism, housing, potable water supply, road infrastructure, telecommunications, development of natural sciences, job creation and development of democratic institutions."

Third, "comprehensive legal reform" with an aim of promoting human and civil rights was to be implemented with the help from the African Union, President Obiang announced. Government would also "take measures to support Equatorial Guinea's free press association, (ASOPGE) to allow it to act with independence and freedom."
Further, the International Red Cross would be invited to "install its headquarters in Equatorial Guinea and assist in reviewing and assessing all allegations of human rights violations in the country. We will also ask for [its] help in monitoring our Criminal Justice System and prisons to ensure the humane treatment and appropriate for those convicted of crimes," the President announced.

Finally, the reform programme would seek to enhance the protection of the environment. "We will continue to enforce other protective measures already in place," President Obiang said, "such as our ban on the hunting of monkeys in our national parklands and forests."

President Obiang went far in recognising the faults and errors of his regime. But "we are a country that is only 42 years old," the Equatoguinean leader apologised his shortcomings in a seldom humble way.

"We will not ask the global advocacy groups that have criticised us to look the other way and stop their criticisms," he said, "but we ask the international community to help us to help ourselves and help us implement this reform programme so that we become partners with the world's democracies."

Read it all here.

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