According to recent reports, Equatorial Guinea is still lacking in the human rights department despite recent "efforts" towards improvements helped along by Lanny Davis, a former official under the Clinton Administration.
Davis, a democratic lobbyist, was hired mid-last year by President Obiang as part of a 1-year $1 million contract to bring about widespread reforms and a "new respect for human rights." So far, it seems as if there has been zero progress towards a reform, instead Davis has been engaged in cleaning up Obiang's international reputation. It is also interesting to note that Davis had entered into a similar contract with the Ivory Coast but recently detached himself after widespread media scrutiny of his ineffectiveness.
In March 2010, the State Department released an extensive list of human rights abuses Equatorial Guinea was guilty of committing (the usual--limited rights, no due process, unsubstantiated killings, political prisoners, trafficking, corruption, etc.), however Davis has not helped Equatorial Guinea address any of these issues. Last June, Obiang gave a public conference outlining his reforms, but critics say that this too was simply an attempt to gain more international support.
It is interesting to see a former US official being contracted to help Obiang reform his country and/or his image. My impression is that this is just as this report accuses, an attempt at international support for Obiang-- especially considering the increasing oil-based relationships that we have developed with the region. It's probably in the interest of both the US and Equatorial Guinea to improve public image; the US would prefer to not be making deal with human rights neglecting regimes, and Equatorial Guinea would receive more international interest for their oil investments. I wonder (hope) there is a human rights/democratic peace aspect to Davis's efforts, but I've learned enough about African politics to never be overly optimistic.
By Brianna Howell