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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Tutu Alicante

Interviewed January 4, 2011

My name is Tutu Alicante. I am from Equatorial Guinea. Amazingly an interview like this couldn’t have happened a few years ago, you know. And that’s because a few years ago, just a few years ago, I was still using pseudonyms to write articles, or pseudonyms to provide congressional testimonies. That has changed right now a bit, where it’s now the government of my country that is having to use all these fake names and fake corporations in an effort to hide all the stolen assets from Equatorial Guinea in an effort to avoid international prosecution and arrest, all right?

I am from a small island in Equatorial Guinea called Annobón. This is south of São Tomé and Príncipe. This is a poor, isolated, but very, very beautiful island in Equatorial Guinea. And in terms of my background, I grew up in Annobón, somewhat in Malabo, the capital. And growing up, one of the people there I admired the most was my father. But something happened in 1993 that completely changed what became of Tutu Alicante. Up until 1993, I was in a Catholic seminary studying to become a Catholic priest. August of 1993 – there is an event in my country where a group of young men who were tired of the isolation, tired of the poverty, tired of the abuses carried out by the government military folks decided to march to the governor’s house and demand some rights.

Immediately the government of Equatorial Guinea sent a group of military men to squash their revolt. The military arrived; then within a few hours, had arrested, tortured, beaten all the young men they could find. They shot two of these young men, one of whom I know very, very closely. They burned down several houses, including my family’s house. And I remember having a conversation with my father that night where I asked him what we were going to do about what had just happened. Our house had been burned down because they couldn’t find my cousin. And to this day, I vividly remember my father’s face. He could barely get the words out. But his answer to me – no, there is nothing we can do; we just have to build another house. And that so changed my mind, there – it so affected me because that was the resignation that the entire community felt and shared.

I refused at that moment to believe that nothing could be done in the face of these atrocities, nothing could be done; that you could have your son killed, nothing – there was nothing you could do. You could have your house burned down; there’s nothing you could do. One would expect that in the face of grave atrocities – having your son killed, having your house burned down – a human being would react in some way: maybe become politically active, take the case to the court system, do something that shows how enraged you are by what had just happened to you.

Sadly, my father, like everyone else in the Equatorial Guinea, has never engaged in any political activity, in any legal accountability process to demand redress for any of these types of violations. People fear that by demanding something, by demanding what should obviously be your rights, you will be bringing on more problems, more trouble from the government. So my father has not done anything to this day about what happened to us. And I came to the U.S., to the United States, five months after that. This happened in August; I came to the United States generally in 1994. But I went to the U.S. with the sole purpose of studying and acquiring the skills that will help me bend the arc of history towards justice.

We needed justice in EG. We needed a society that was ruled by laws, a society in which our rights, as human beings, were fully respected. And that is what I do now. I run an organization called EG Justice, and we work with people from Equatorial Guinea, inside the country and in the diaspora, to bring about change, to bring about change, because we need change desperately.