“The Spanish government is deeply concerned about this detention and calls on the governments of Chad and Equatorial Guinea to handle Andrés Esono’s case with the utmost respect for his fundamental rights,” according to a statement from the authorities in Madrid.
Andrés Esono, the secretary general of the Equatorial Guinean political party Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS) was accused by the Equatorial Guinea government of trying to organize a coup d’etat from Chad by recruiting fighters and buying arms and munitions.
According to the Spanish foreign ministry, Esono had been invited to speak at a conference in Chad by UNDR, Chad’s main opposition party.
Esono’s CPDS party holds no seats in the Equatorial Guinean assembly, but he has been a regular target of Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang. He was falsely accused of trying to spread the Ebola virus throughout the country in 2015.
“The Equatorial Guinea government is afraid of anything it doesn’t control,” said Tutu Alicante, the executive director of EG Justice, a US-based Equatorial Guinean human rights group.
Human Rights Watch outlined how any opposition or critic of the Obiang government is targeted with torture, intimidation, detention and beatings.
“They called Human Rights Watch all sorts of names, and they consider me an enemy of the state and a traitor,” Alicante told RFI. The government considers members of the opposition and human rights defenders as “against them”, according to the human rights activist.
International pressure key to his release
Alicante believes that African countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Botswana can help Esono’s case.
“Sadly, the Central African region is full of other dictators - Idriss Deby is a dictator, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Paul Biya, Ali Bongo, they’re all dictators,” said Alicante, referring to leaders in Chad, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon and Gabon.
Countries outside the African continent could also pressure Chad to release him using their bilateral relationships and economic influence to push for Esono’s release, said Alicante.
“The Chadian government, like many other governments, listens, and is influenced by pressure from foreign countries, countries like France, and countries like the United States, and the European Union,” he added.
Alicante gave the example of Yahya Jammeh, the former dictator of The Gambia, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea. Jammeh freely left The Gambia after he lost the election at the end of 2016, despite being accused of numerous forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, rapes and murders.
Jammeh was free to go where he wanted “because no African country was against this. And no country of the European Union, nor the US said anything,” said Alicante.
“These are things that should not happen,” Alicante added, making a comparison to Jammeh’s case and the situation with Esono’s detention in Chad.