Saturday, March 19, 2011

Equatorial Guinea: President Calls for Legal Reform and Democratization Tied to Social Development

The President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and current Chairman of the African Union (AU), Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, called for reform of the legal system as a means of ensuring and protecting the rights of citizens yesterday at the opening session of the West African nation's House of Parliament.

"We can avoid many of the trends that have shaken other countries today, if we repair the legal instruments that govern our state and put them into practice," he said. "In this way we will eliminate the lapses that currently violate the rights and freedoms of individuals, groups, and organs and institutions of our society. I am committed nationally and internationally to this work."

In his address to the legislators, he spoke more broadly about the sources of and solutions for conflicts in Africa and the need for governments to respond to the desires of young people for greater enfranchisement.

Mr. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said, "It is logical that young people, who in most countries consider themselves to be outside the political arena, feel oppressed and excluded, and so seek a way out or solution to their problems. In this case, their claims are just and legitimate, as are the claims of so many other marginalized groups. But these claims must be aired with order and discipline so that they do not become rebellion and civil disobedience."

The AU will hold its summit in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, in June with the theme "Accelerating Youth Employment and Sustainable Development."

Turning to the situation in Africa, the current President of the African Union addressed the problem of oppressive one-party states and discussed his own government's plan for democratic development to go hand in hand with social and economic development. He said that since independence, Africa has struggled to "protect the unity and integrity of its states, the peace of its nations, and the security of its institutions."

But as part of this vision, said President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, "several African countries decided to establish one-party systems to avoid the violent changes of government that opposition political parties brought about. In spite of this, the excesses of power led to anarchy and to oppression by the governments that became dictatorships." These systems have been inconsistent and "often inflexible, [and] often don't give significant protection or opportunity to all political groups and social strata."

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo provided a thorough analysis and pointed out how the African countries can avoid many currents that are shaking others today if they rectify the legal instruments that govern their country. "The irreconcilable problems which can spread to other states, are due to the inconsistency of the models of democracy and Governments."

Referring to his own government, the president said, "Equatorial Guinea does not wish to presume that it has fully satisfied the needs of the people. This is why we have named our system a 'democratic rehearsal,' meaning the need to bring the system up to date as the people evolve."

Continuing a theme he first struck in his address in accepting the chairmanship of the African Union in January 2011 in Addis Ababa, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo referred to the need for Africans to take a greater role in resolving African problems. "The African Union exerts coercive force, even though it may send peacekeeping missions," he said. "We think we must persuade the parties, influence [them] politically and guide them to a peaceful and negotiated solution. Embargoes and military interventions have never given positive results for the people affected."