Equatorial Guinea

Not Free
PR Political Rights 0 40
CL Civil Liberties 5 60
Last Year's Score & Status
5 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

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, cracks down on civil society groups, and censors journalists. The judiciary is under presidential control, and security forces engage in torture and other violence with impunity.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In May, Vice President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, a son of the president who is widely known as Teodorín, launched a campaign aimed at combating gang violence. Authorities detained thousands of people over the course of several months, and at least four died in custody.
  • In September, Gabriel Nsé Obiang, leader of the banned opposition party Citizens for Innovation (CI), was arrested along with as many as 275 party members in a police assault on the party’s headquarters that caused the deaths of one officer and at least four opposition activists.
  • In tightly controlled general elections in November, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo won a sixth term in office, and the ruling party’s electoral bloc captured all of the parliamentary and municipal council seats at stake.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

The president controls the executive branch, including the council of ministers. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Africa’s longest-serving head of state, has held the presidency since 1979. He was awarded a new seven-year term in the November 2022 presidential election, ostensibly winning 97 percent of the vote in an unfair contest against two nominal challengers from approved opposition parties.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 0.000 4.004

The bicameral parliament consists of a 70-seat Senate and a 100-seat Chamber of Deputies. Fifteen senators are appointed by the president, 55 are directly elected, and there can be several additional ex officio members. The Chamber of Deputies is directly elected, and all elected lawmakers serve five-year terms.

In the November 2022 legislative elections, the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) and its allies won all 100 seats in the lower house, all 55 of the elected seats in the Senate, and all 588 municipal council positions. The two opposition parties that were permitted to participate received a tiny fraction of the vote, according to official results, and the campaign environment was tightly controlled by the authorities.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 0.000 4.004

Equatorial Guinea does not have an independent electoral body; the head of the National Electoral Commission during the 2022 elections was also the country’s interior minister and a member of the ruling PDGE. Elections are not fairly managed in practice.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 0.000 4.004

The PDGE is the dominant party, operating in conjunction with several subordinate parties in its coalition. The only other parties allowed to participate in the 2022 elections were the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) and the Party of the Social Democratic Coalition (PCSD).

Opposition leaders and members are subject to arrest, abuse in detention, and heavy prison sentences after unfair trials. In September 2022, police attacked the headquarters of CI, an opposition party that was banned in 2018, and arrested as many as 275 people, including party leader Gabriel Nsé Obiang. One officer and at least four civilians were reportedly killed in the assault, and many others were injured.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 0.000 4.004

Equatorial Guinea has never experienced a peaceful transfer of power through elections. President Obiang took power after a coup in 1979, and in 2016 he appointed his son as vice president, paving the way for his succession.

The November 2022 elections featured extensive irregularities and no genuine competition. Opposition candidates lost every contest at the presidential, legislative, and municipal levels.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 0.000 4.004

The regime routinely uses the security forces to attack and intimidate opposition supporters, and political loyalty to the ruling party is treated as a condition for obtaining and keeping public-sector employment.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 0.000 4.004

The ethnic Fang majority dominates political life, leaving minority ethnic groups with little influence; power is concentrated in the hands of the president’s family and allies from their region of origin. Women formally enjoy equal political rights, but the repressive political system does not allow them to organize independently to advance their interests. Women hold few government positions, 31 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and 22 percent of the seats in the Senate. While no law explicitly prevents LGBT+ individuals from exercising their political rights, societal discrimination discourages them from participating openly and advocating for their welfare.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 0.000 4.004

The executive branch—headed by the president, who is not freely elected—sets and implements government policy, leaving the legislature no meaningful role in the policymaking process.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 0.000 4.004

There are no independent anticorruption mechanisms, and the government is marred by nepotism and graft. Hiring and promotions within the government, army, and civil service favor those with ties to the president and his family. Two of the president’s sons, the vice president and the minister of mines and hydrocarbons, have been the subjects of corruption cases in European courts. Although the government has taken some steps to address corruption, the efforts have been largely superficial.

In March 2022, the president appointed the first members of the Court of Auditors, a monitoring body called for in a 2012 constitutional amendment. Former treasury minister Melchor Esono Edjo, a nephew of the president, was sworn in as head of the court despite past international corruption allegations and a conflict of interest related to his shares in a partially state-owned bank. In May, the president also appointed the leaders of a new anticorruption commission in keeping with a 2020 law. The effectiveness of these institutions and the differentiation of their functions remained unclear at year’s end.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 0.000 4.004

The government’s budget process and procurement system are opaque, as are the finances of state-owned companies. A significant percentage of revenue from the country’s oil reserves is funneled to Obiang’s allies through noncompetitive, nontransparent construction contracts. International financial organizations and human rights groups have criticized the government for pouring resources into wasteful infrastructure projects while neglecting public health and social spending.

In compliance with a 2021 anticorruption law, the government released a form for asset declarations in March 2022. Members of the government issued their respective declarations later that year, but the statements were apparently removed from the government website a few weeks later.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 0.000 4.004

Press freedom is severely limited, despite constitutional protections. Most journalists consistently exercise self-censorship, and those who do criticize the regime are subject to dismissal and other reprisals. The country’s only private television and radio broadcaster, RTV-Asonga, is controlled by Teodorín. The handful of private newspapers and magazines in operation face intense financial and political pressure and are unable to publish regularly. The government has long sought to block access to the websites of opposition parties and exile groups, and online versions of some Spanish newspapers are regularly blocked. The government has obstructed access to the internet in times of political tension.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.001 4.004

Religious freedom is protected by the constitution, though in practice it is sometimes affected by the country’s broader political repression and endemic corruption. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant faith and is exempt from registration and permit requirements that apply to other groups. Government officials are regularly required to attend Catholic masses.

In 2020, the government disbanded two religious groups on the grounds that they did not comply with COVID-19-related restrictions. The decree took effect without due process and included deportation orders for foreign pastors associated with the groups.

In August 2022, pastor Rubén Mayé Nsue Mangue, a former minister of justice and ambassador to the United States, was arrested and banned from practicing his religion after he allegedly criticized the government in sermons and on social media. He was forcibly disappeared for days after his arrest and remained in detention at year’s end.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.001 4.004

Academic freedom is politically constrained, and self-censorship among faculty is common. Some university professors and teachers have reportedly been hired or dismissed due to their political affiliations.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 0.000 4.004

Freedoms of personal expression and private discussion are restricted. The government uses informants and electronic surveillance to monitor dissent, and critics of the government are subject to arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and trumped-up criminal charges.

In September 2022, ahead of the general elections in November, several alleged opponents of the government were arrested based in part on their social media activity and private communications. At least three detainees were accused of plotting a terrorist action and shown confessing on state television.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 0.000 4.004

Freedom of assembly is severely restricted. Opposition gatherings are typically blocked or dispersed by security forces, and citizens are sometimes pressured to attend progovernment events.

In June 2022, a rally organized by the CPDS was banned by the authorities. In September, Leoncio Prisco Eko Mba, a rapper also known as Adjoguening who had criticized the government in his lyrics, was arrested while staging a protest to demand that officials restore his confiscated passport. He was held for a month without charges.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 0.000 4.004

All associations must register with the government through an onerous process, and independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) face state persecution. In 2019, the Center for Studies and Initiatives for the Development of Equatorial Guinea (CEID-GE) was dissolved by government decree.

Among those arrested in the broader preelection crackdown in September 2022 were human rights activists Luis Nzó Ondo and Anacleto Micha Nlang. Another civil society activist, Joaquin Elo Ayeto, was arrested in December.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 0.000 4.004

The constitution provides for the right to organize unions, but there are many legal and practical barriers to union formation, collective bargaining, and strikes. The government has refused to register several trade unions; a farmers’ organization is the only legal union.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 0.000 4.004

The judiciary is not independent, and judges in sensitive cases often consult with the office of the president before issuing important rulings. Under the constitution, the president is the nation’s first magistrate. He also oversees the body that nominates judges. The court system’s impartiality is further undermined by corruption. Judges are regularly accused of taking bribes.

In July 2022, the president of the Supreme Court resigned in the face of allegations that he had received a bribe from a private company. Teodorín stated on social media that the judge had admitted to the crime. A new Supreme Court president was appointed by decree later that month.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

Security forces routinely detain people without charge, and defendants’ due process rights are not respected. Military courts, which are empowered to try civilians for certain crimes, have even fewer due process protections than civilian courts and lack an avenue for appeal.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 0.000 4.004

Beatings, torture, and forced disappearances by security forces are reportedly common. Prisons are overcrowded and feature harsh conditions, including physical abuse, poor sanitation, and denial of medical care.

In May 2022, Teodorín launched a law enforcement campaign to suppress violence by criminal gangs. Authorities detained thousands of people over the course of several months, and at least four died in custody.

A revised penal code that was enacted in September eliminated the death penalty, though capital punishment is still allowed under the code of military justice. The most recent execution was carried out in 2014.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 0.000 4.004

There are few legal protections against discrimination. Women face discrimination in employment and other matters, particularly in rural areas. Ethnic minority groups such as the Bubi, Ndowe, and Annobonese suffer persistent societal discrimination in the form of harassment from law enforcement officials or difficulties accessing public services.

Immigrants, including irregular migrants, are subject to raids, physical abuse, and extortion by police. Same-sex sexual activity is not illegal, but LGBT+ people face social stigma and mistreatment including street harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

Freedom of movement is protected by law but restricted in practice through measures such as police checkpoints, which often require the payment of bribes. Authorities have denied opposition members and other dissidents’ return from abroad, confiscated their passports, or restricted their movements within the country.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

Pervasive corruption and onerous bureaucratic procedures serve as major impediments to private business activity. Property rights are inconsistently respected by the government. Members of the Bubi minority have reported cases of land grabs by elites and the government in recent years.

Most women face disadvantages regarding inheritance and property rights under both the civil code and customary practices, though women enjoy greater customary rights among the Bubi.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

The civil code and customary law put women at a disadvantage with respect to personal status matters like marriage and child custody, with some exceptions among the Bubi. Laws against rape and domestic violence are not enforced effectively. The government does little to collect data or to support civil society efforts to combat such problems, which include sexual violence against minors and LGBT+ people. Child marriage is common; the minimum age for marriage is 14. The Education Ministry bars pregnant girls from attending school.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 0.000 4.004

The country’s oil wealth is concentrated among the ruling elite, leaving much of the population without access to basic services. Equatorial Guinea continues to score poorly on social and economic development indicators, and economic conditions have worsened when global oil prices are low.

Some foreign workers are subject to passport confiscation and forced labor. Corrupt officials are often complicit in human trafficking, according to the US State Department. In late 2021, security forces arrested hundreds of foreign nationals—particularly those from other African countries—regardless of their documentation or legal status. Some were expelled from the country without the required court procedure.

On Equatorial Guinea

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  • Global Freedom Score

    5 100 not free