Equatorial Guinea arrest two politicians demanding Africa Cup boycott

soccer supporters without match tickets are held back by police
In this file photo taken on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, soccer supporters without match tickets are held back by police in riot gear as they try to approach Malabo Stadium where Equatorial Guinea was to face Zambia in their final African Cup of Nations Group A match, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (Photo: AP)
Thursday 15 Jan 2015
Police in Equatorial Guinea have arrested an opposition politician and a human rights activist who called for a boycott of the Africa Cup of Nations, due to start Saturday, opposition sources said

"Our comrade Celestino Nvo Okenve was arrested here in Bata by police (...) on Wednesday because he was handing out flyers and T-shirts urging people not to go to the stadiums as the president (Teodoro Obiang Nguema) has asked," Fulgencio Ondo, spokesman for the Popular Union (UP) party, told AFP.

The opposition fears that when the small central African nation hosts this year's continental football tournament from January 17 to February 8, there is a high risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that has hit three west African countries hard in the past year, claiming more than 8,000 lives.

A hardline ruler who first seized power in a 1979 coup and recently came into oil wealth, Obiang will be in the limelight during the contest, which was handed to his tropical country after Morocco backed down as host, also because of Ebola fears.

"President Obiang looks out only for his political interests and not the wellbeing of the population," Ondo charged, demanding that Nvo Okenve be released at once because "he's right" and "Ebola is a dangerous disease".

The arrest of Nvo Okenve was confirmed by his brother Alfredo Okenve Ndo, who told AFP by telephone from the economic capital that he had heard from friends present when police arrived.

"I knew he was preparing something against (the Africa Cup) to do with Ebola," he added.

Human rights activist Santiago Martin, an active member of the main opposition party, the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), was also picked up on Wednesday, according to the secretary general of the CPDS, Andres Esono Ondo.

"Somebody close to the governor of Bata accused him of planning a demonstration of January 17 when the (Cup) begins... Bata's police commissioner had decided to hold him in a cell until the end" of the football tournament, Esono said.

Obiang was last returned to power at the polls in the densely forested former Spanish colony on Africa's Atlantic seaboard in 2009, when he won 95.37 percent of the votes, according to official results.

His regime is regularly denounced by human rights watchdogs for brutal repression of his foes, media outlets and civic organisations, as well as rampant corruption.

Nvo Okenve returned home last November after more than 30 years in Madrid, once Obiang announced a "general amnesty" for his opponents, with a view to organising a national dialogue on the future running of the country.


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