Archbishop Tutu attacks UN collusion with African dictator: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2010 June 18, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa, Corruption, UN.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Nobel laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has criticized UNESCO, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, for agreeing to sponsor a prize named in honour of the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
On June 11 Archbishop Tutu released an open letter to UNESCO saying he was “appalled” that the UN was “allowing itself to burnish the unsavory reputation of a dictator.”
The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences was created to recognize “scientific achievements that improve the quality of human life” and the first award is expected to be made this month.
Human Rights groups and anti-corruption campaigners have accused Mr. Obiang of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the treasury of his oil-rich West African state, while the majority of its people live in abject poverty. Mr. Obiang seized power from his uncle in 1979 and was re-elected last year with 95 per cent of the vote.
“The rule of President Obiang,” Archbishop Tutu said, “has been marked by corruption and abuse.”
He called upon UNESCO to use the Obiang prize’s £2 million endowment “to benefit the people of Equatorial Guinea—from whom these funds have been taken—rather than to glorify their president.”
“The people of Equatorial Guinea should share in the wealth generated by their country’s huge oil reserves. Instead, they endure poverty and oppression. Their president and his associates enjoy lavish homes and trips abroad, and money that should go to the people winds its way to private bank accounts,” the former archbishop said.
The American ambassador to UNESCO on June 14 sent a letter to the organization’s director general backing Archbishop Tutu’s call to suspend the Obiang prize. Ambassador David T. Killion said that a suspension would give time “for quiet consultations among member states to find a way forward,” consistent with UNESCO’s “basic values.”