By Ambassador Julie Furuta-Toy
Greetings. This is my final day as United States Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. I want to thank you for your hospitality and for the wonderful memories that I will always cherish of my time here.
As I depart, I wanted to take a moment to leave you with some thoughts. When I arrived in this beautiful country three years ago, I told President Obiang that my goals were to work with Equatorial Guinea to expand democratic space, diversify its economy, and to ensure that U.S. programs help the people of Equatorial Guinea reach for success.
During those three years, I have worked with your government and civil society leaders towards achieving these goals. While we have made some progress in each of these areas, I have to admit that there is still work to do. For example, more political space is essential to fully implement multiparty democracy in Equatorial Guinea. While the recent political dialogue was a good platform to discuss this issue, there is more to be done to make it a reality. Opposition parties need more access to the public, including through the media. Access to the funds that the government has repeatedly promised and the lack of an electoral council that is fully independent is also a challenge to full multiparty implementation.
Some non-governmental organizations do not have the space they need to speak frankly with the people of Equatorial Guinea. A vibrant civil society can contribute greatly to addressing challenges that countries face – and can in fact advance government programs and policies in support of the citizenry. No matter whether the NGOs work with ten people or a thousand people, they are neither members of the government, nor members of the parties. They are citizens of their country and deserve the respect of the government and all of the political parties.
And to diversify the economy, Equatorial Guinea must continue efforts to improve the business climate, taking concrete actions to attract more investment here. The “one-stop shop” should facilitate and explain the business climate in the country. I know that your government has promised a new system to apply for visas online. These would be positive steps, and I have high hopes for them.
It has been a pleasure serving as Ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. I wish you all the best.