A human rights group says authorities in Equatorial Guinea have arrested nine activists before this month's legislative elections.

Amnesty International said Wednesday the arrests were "further evidence of the authorities' determination to clamp down on free speech" before the May 26 vote.

Activists had organized a demonstration for Wednesday because authorities in Equatorial Guinea had refused to register a new opposition political party.

Noel Kututwa, Africa Program Deputy Director for Amnesty, said anyone who tries to compete with the ruling party is being targeted by authorities.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who first seized power in a 1979 coup, is Africa's longest-serving strongman. He has insisted that his government is committed to holding fair and democratic elections in the tiny, oil-rich nation.