(Reuters) UNESCO suspends prize sponsored by Eq Guinea leader

(Reuters) UNESCO suspends prize sponsored by Eq Guinea leader

October 21, 2010
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The U.N. culture and education body UNESCO suspended on Thursday the award of a prize for life sciences named after the leader of Equatorial Guinea, whose government is widely accused of corruption and rights abuses.

The move comes after civil society groups accused the United Nations of allowing Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo to launder his international reputation by funding the $3 million prize instead of using the cash to improve the living standards of his people....

Obiang has run the tiny central African state, which lies between Gabon and Cameroon onshore and whose capital is on an island off the Atlantic coast, since deposing his uncle in a 1979 coup, making him one of Africa's longest-running leaders.

Under his rule, the country has leapt from small-scale cocoa producer to major oil exporter with a per capita GDP higher than Saudi Arabia. Critics say most oil revenues are squandered or stolen, leaving the near 700,000 population mired in poverty.

Watchdog Transparency International has listed Equatorial Guinea as among the world's top 12 most corrupt countries.

"Teodoro Obiang's regime undermines everything UNESCO stands for," said Tutu Alicante, head of Equatorial Guinea-focused human rights group EG Justice, in a news release....

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