Obiang prize should not be given out, says NGO
An Equatorial Guinean rights campaigner is in Paris to try to lobby Unesco to cancel its so-called “dictator prize” financed by Equatorial Guinean President Theodoro Obiang. Tutu Alicante accuses President Teodoro Obiang of multiple human rights abuses.
Alicante is in Paris to speak with board members of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to persuade them to bring up the issue of the Obiang Prize during their working group meeting on administering prizes later this month.
He has met with some board members, including the Russian delegation, but all the African members of the prize committee-- including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Djbouti—refuse to see him.
“They claim that the way they work is bilaterally with other governments. They met with the Equatorial Guinea government. But this is a key issue, the Unesco Obiango prize, which has so much to do with human rights conditions inside the country,” he says.
Alicante feels it is a travesty that board members “do not want to meet with a citizen of the country to hear what people in the country have to think about this prize.”
Alicante and a coalition of human rights leaders were able to successfully lobby and block the prize from being administered last June, but is afraid that Unesco will eventually go ahead and award the prize.
The Obiang prize is funded by a 2.2 million euro pledge from an obscure Equatorial Guinean foundation, says Alicante. He says that reports indicate the money is coming from the government of Equatorial Guinea, but its origins are still unclear.
“What we do know is that President Obiang and members of his family, specifically his son, are under several judicial investigations. There are Senate investigations in the US…there are investigations for purchases his son Theodorin has made, including 35 million dollars in planes… and there is a judicial investigation in Spain… all this for money laundering and corruption-related against President Obiang and members of his family,” he says.
Transparency International, a corruption monitoring organisation, ranked Equatorial Guinea as the 12th most-corrupt country out of 180 countries in the world in their 2009 corruption index.
Equatorial Guinea is an oil-rich nation that has become Africa's third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Human Rights Watch, another rights group, says that most of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.