Friday, November 21, 2014

Equatorial Guinea’s National Dialogue Successfully Amends Current Political Laws


Meeting brought together legalized and non-legalized political parties to discuss current laws amendments

The government of Equatorial Guinea held a national dialogue with the goal of reviewing and improving the current laws affecting the political parties of the country. All political parties and movements, including expatriate groups, were invited to participate. The meetings were held at the Sipopo Conference Center in the capital city of Malabo on November 7-15, 2014.

National dialogue participants reviewed the national laws affecting political participation, expression and organization, such as the Political Parties Law, the Meeting and Demonstration Law; the Binding Pact and its evaluation; as well as the Regulatory Law of Presidential Elections.

Participants were able to work on an agreement to facilitate the creation of political parties offer proposals for amendments to these laws, and offer initiates to open the political environment in the country. The Government has already agreed to the removal of the deposit of 30 million CFA francs to found a new political party and reduce the number of co-founders in different constituencies necessary.

After a weeklong series debates, participants agreed on some necessary changes. They made numerous modifications in the principal laws related to elections and political parties, relaxed the requirements to create political parties and stand for election, and established new rules to keep better track of the Binding Pact of parties, which will guide the development of multiparty democracy in Equatorial Guinea.

The legalized political parties that signed the final agreement included the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), Popular Union (UP), Democratic Liberal Convention (CLD), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Progressive Democratic Alliance (ADP), Social Democratic Union (UDS), Democratic and Popular Social Convergence (CSDP), Party of the Democratic Social Coalition (PCSD), Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea (APGE), National Democratic Union (UDENA), Socialist Party of Equatorial Guinea (PSGE), and Liberal Party (PL).

The non-legalized signing parties were: Center Right Union (UCD), Independent Candidature (CI), Renewed Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDSR) Self-Determination Movement of the Island of Bioko (MAIB), Popular Union (UP), National Democratic Party (PND), National Liberation Front of Equatorial Guinea (FRENALIGE) and Faction of Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea (APGE). Among the independent activists: Ramon Ecoro, of Sweden and the group of the civil society coming from Gabon.

In his opening remarks, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said, “Democracy and national unity must be priorities in the problems that affect the nation, since it has been thanks to preserving the peace that the development and progress the country is experiencing has been guaranteed.” 

He continued to say, “Where there is no dialogue, there cannot be peace and stability; where there are no public liberties, there cannot be institutional development, like there is in Equatorial Guinea, despite the fact that we are a young country.” 

“The processes of consensual dialogue has guaranteed peace and development. Equatorial Guinea, which used to be a poor country and is now a model country of development in Africa, thanks to the peace that guarantees this continual progress. We have adopted the Horizon 2020 Development Plan in which the representatives of the Government, the political sector and civil society participate. All human work is susceptible to error. This dialogue was not called due to a crisis situation; it is a meeting that the Government has provided. In the country there is an atmosphere of peace, stability and national harmony,” added Obiang.

Obiang encouraged political parties to have a dialogue for the betterment of the country. “We are a young country that does not have the political experience of other older nations; for this reason it is necessary to listen to other compatriots that, from another point of view, express their disconformity with the evolution of our country.

“This political process has allowed the reform of the Constitution on three occasions,” the President said, “with the participation of all the political agents who expressed their willingness to participate in these changes; which have been backed in referendum by the people of Equatorial Guinea.”

While addressing the political parties, President Obiang said that this dialogue was not called because Equatorial Guinea is experiencing a crisis, and much less a state of war or of exception; it is a roundtable discussion that the Government promotes to listen to the politicians that disseminate distorted opinions on the Equatoguinean reality. 

Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, sent a congratulatory message to President Obiang applauding the national dialogue initiative and said this was “a good opportunity to explain constructive options, that ensure the progress of Africa.”

Prior to the national dialogue, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo granted an amnesty to all citizens who had been convicted of political crimes, whether or not they have served or are serving sentences, and to those who have begun any disciplinary action that constitutes an obstacle to the exercise of political activities. The government  also covered airfare for expatriates through Equatorial Guinea’s national airline, Ceiba Intercontinental, on its Madrid-Malabo flights to encourage all political parties to participate in this historical meeting.

This was the fifth national dialogue the government of Equatorial Guinea has organized since its independence in 1979. It has granted three previous general amnesties.

Some opposition leaders walked out of the conference on the first working day, but returned later. Some groups and activists of the diaspora asked the Government to facilitate the legalization of their parties and release two prisoners they considered to be political. On Friday night, the Prime Minister, Vicente Ehate Tomi, confirmed that both issues had also been accepted by the Government, and the two prisoners were released on that same day.

Rules were also introduced so that the state communications media would reserve free promotion and advertising space for the different democratic factions, and their commitment to giving proportional and neutral treatment.

In his closing remarks, Obiang said, “We believe that the consensus that was reached has a national scope, since from now on its decisions will benefit the development of the democracy in our country and will strengthen all the political groups. This Dialogue has not acted to satisfy the desires of a political group, but rather of all the political forces of the Nation as a whole. We believe that the set of laws that protect public freedom was amply reviewed, and we have been able to listen to the important claims posed by the political forces. If any important decision has been taken by this dialogue, it has been thanks to the experience and political maturity of the active participation of everyone.”

Obiang discussed the economic situation in Equatorial Guinea and said that 30%, of revenue from oil remains in the country, while 70% goes out of the country to the exploration and extraction companies. “However,” he said, “we are adequately administering these resources.” 

He also referred to the country’s incipient economic recession. “The current economic recession, due to the fluctuation of the price of oil, along with the great development of infrastructure, advises a change of mentality, in order not to live with the income from oil, but rather to exploit our creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and avoid the complacency of the so-called ‘Dutch disease.’” 

He warned, “We must cultivate a mentality of economic solvency of the citizens, in order to create a society capable of defending any economic recession.”

The national dialogue brought together the government of Equatorial Guinea, non-governmental organizations, ambassadors, other international and national observers, legalized political parties in the country: Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE), Popular Union (UP), Democratic Liberal Convention (CLD), Social Democrat Party (PSD), Progressive Democratic Alliance (ADP), National Democratic Union (UDN), Democratic and Popular Social Convergence (CSDP), Party of the Democratic Social Coalition (PCSD), Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), Popular Action of Equatorial Guinea (APGE), National Democratic Union (UDN), Socialist Party of Equatorial Guinea (PSGE), Liberal Party (PL), National Liberation Front of Equatorial Guinea (FRENALIGE), Opposition Coalition for the Restoration of a Democratic State (CORED); the diaspora: the Independent Candidature (CI), the Self-Determination Movement of the Island of Bioko (MAIB), Republican Democrat Force (FDR) and the Center Right Union (UCD); other independent political parties in the interior of the country such as Center Right Union (UCD), Republican Democrat Force (FDR), Independent Candidature (CI) and others joined the national dialogue as well.