Release of Mikalai Statkevich and Andrés Esono Ondo
25 April 2019
The SI welcomes the release of two political prisoners, Andrés Esono Ondo, Secretary General of the CPDS of Equatorial Guinea and Mikalai Statkevich, leader of the NH of Belarus, about whom the SI had issued a press statement on 13 April (see statement below).
Esono Ondo, who was arrested in Chad on 11 April in coordination with the Obiang regime in Equatorial Guinea, was released yesterday by the Chadian authorities and has today arrived back safely to Malabo. International mobilisation in his defence has been an important factor in his release and the SI will continue to be on alert.
Mikalai Statkevich has been released after serving a prison sentence of 15 days imposed by the Lukashenko regime, and is now also safely home. Having previously served a five year prison sentence, Statkevich, who is a presidential candidate for the 2020 elections, is regularly subjected to sudden disappearance, detention and imprisonment.
In our global political family we stand together in solidarity, determined to remain alert and on guard on all fronts, in support of our members who are victims of political persecution in countries where there is no democracy.
A call for urgent action in two continents
13 April 2019
For many years and in every continent, social democrats have been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy. Member parties of the Socialist International in great numbers have led the way to gain freedoms and rights for their citizens in many countries around the world. That struggle still continues every day, where dictators persist, where repression continues, and where members of our global social democratic community still find themselves under authoritarian regimes. In only this week, we have two clear examples, in two different continents, of the struggle that persists, inspired and led by members of our political family.
Mikalai Statkevich, leader of the SI member party Narodnaya Hramada (NH) of Belarus, has once again been imprisoned by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Statkevich, co-chair of the SI’s regional committee for the Caucasus, CIS and the Black Sea, was sentenced on 9 April to fifteen days in jail following his call on social media to pray for the innocent victims of Stalin’s repression. Lukashenko had ordered the removal of the wooden crosses at the memorial site at Kurapaty where the graves lie of over 30,000 people killed in the 1930s and 1940s during the rule of Stalin. Statkevich, who was a presidential candidate in the elections of 2010, was jailed for more than five years following the massive popular protests at the declaration of victory by Lukashenko in those elections, and is today a leading figure of the opposition and a presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections in 2020.
Andrés Esono Ondo, Secretary General of the SI member party in Equatorial Guinea, the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), was arrested in Chad on the night of 11 April and is being held in detention by the Chadian National Security Agency in the capital, N’Djamena. Esono Ondo had travelled to the city of Mongo in Chad to attend, as one of the international guests, the congress of the SI member, the Union Nationale pour le Développement et le Renouveau (UNDR), which was ultimately prevented from taking place by the regional authorities. The Department of External Security of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea published a press release dated 12 April 2019, outrageously claiming that the purpose of Esono Ondo’s trip was to acquire arms, munitions and recruit terrorists to carry out a coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea with foreign financing, and that the leader of the UNDR, Saleh Kebzabo, was the facilitator in Chad of this plan.
Social democratic leaders, in the face of authoritarianism, have become the architects of new democracies and everyone who has been part of the struggle can recognise and knows the language, the methods and the arguments that belong to the past. We must all stand with our comrades in Belarus, Equatorial Guinea and Chad, as well as those in every other country suffering under authoritarian regimes, and play our part so that they can bring a democratic future to their countries.