afrol News, 6 June - Equatorial Guinea is one of the countries singled out in a new US State Department report on trafficking in persons. "Children are trafficked internally and from neighbouring countries," the report concludes, but the government was cooperative in limiting the practice.
Equatorial Guinean was placed in the category "Tier 2" in the global US report of trafficking in persons, meaning that the country did not comply with a US Act's minimum standards for the elimination of slave trafficking, but the government was making "significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance" with these standards. Next year, the US government will impose penalties in the form of withheld aid for countries judged not in compliance with the minimum standards. The report was recently presented by US Ambassador Nancy Ely-Raphel.
On Equatorial Guinea, the report says that children are trafficked internally and from neighbouring countries, such as Nigeria and Benin, "for bonded labour in the urban and domestic sectors of Equatorial Guinea."
To a lesser extent, children are also being trafficked "for domestic labour transit Equatorial Guinea on their way to Gabon," the report says. The country's "larger cities were a destination," - probably meaning Malabo and Bata - "as well as a transit point on to European countries, for women from Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria and Benin, trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation."
The official US assessment is that the Equatoguinean government "does not yet fully meet the minimum standards." However, it was making "significant efforts to do so."
Equatorial Guinea does not have a law against all forms of trafficking, and while related laws exit, they are rarely used against traffickers. The US State Department holds that borders are "generally inadequately monitored due to insufficient resources and lack of training for law enforcement authorities."
The Equatoguinean government had however undertaken a project to provide protection and assistance to trafficked and at-risk children, which includes construction of two shelters scheduled to be operational later this year. Over the past few years, the government also had offered to repatriate and provide assistance to trafficking victims. The government did also cooperate with NGOs that provide services to victims and at-risk women and children.
In terms of prevention, the Equatoguinean government had sponsored radio announcements to promote the law forbidding employment of children under the age of fourteen. The government had also requested the support of international organisations to finance a national study on child trafficking, and to identify measures for its eradication.
- Equatorial Guinea actively participates in regional conferences and efforts to combat trafficking in persons, the US report concludes. According to other reports, however, Equatoguinean law does not even prohibit trafficking in persons.
US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, was quoted by the US press saying that his country was resolved "to stop this appalling assault on the dignity of men, women and children," that victimises an estimated 700,000 to 4 million people a year worldwide through coercion and outright kidnapping.
The other African countries labelled as "Tier 2" are Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. The only African country in the 19-members group of "Tier 3" - which are "not making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance" - was Sudan, where slavery and slave raiding is widespread.
Sources: Based on US govt and afrol archives