Equatorial Guinea's dictator attempts to rebrand himself as a champion of human rights with the help of a Clinton-endorsed charity
Equatorial Guinea's dictator attempts to rebrand himself as a champion of human rights with the help of a Clinton-endorsed charityGuy Adams The Independent |
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's PR campaign begins on 20 August, when he welcomes 4,000 delegates, including world leaders, Hollywood actors, Emmy-winning pop stars, famous athletes, and a cross-section of US television celebrities, to the city of Malabo.
He is the dictator’s dictator: a spectacular kleptocrat who seized power in a coup and has presided over Equatorial Guinea for more than three decades, imprisoning political opponents, censoring hostile media coverage and rigging Presidential elections, which he has occasionally won with more than 95 per cent of the vote.
Now Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, whose appetite for the proceeds of thuggish corruption saw him described by the US authorities as the head of “an ongoing family criminal conspiracy,” is attempting to perform bizarre career volte face. Despite his status as Africa’s longest-serving dictator, he will this month seek to rebrand himself on the international stage - as a principled advocate for human rights.
His PR attempt begins on 20 August, when Obiang is scheduled to welcome 4,000 delegates, including world leaders, Hollywood actors, Emmy-winning pop stars, famous athletes, and a cross-section of US television celebrities, to the city of Malabo, which – for currently-murky reasons – has been chosen to host one of 2012's biggest liberal talking shops: the ninth biennial Sullivan Summit.
The event is highly prestigious - previous guests have included Hillary Clinton, George W Bush, and Colin Powell - lasts four days, and according to publicity materials will pursue: “economic empowerment and human development for the nations of Africa.” A guide to the proceedings, which dubs Obiang “His Excellency,” claims that hundreds of political leaders and “powerhouse intellectuals” will attend.
It has been organised by the Leon H Sullivan Foundation, a charity which campaigns for human rights. The Foundation's eponymous founder, who died in 2001, was one of Martin Luther King’s right hand men during the civil rights era, and later achieved global prominence as an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa.
Despite this noble heritage, the Sullivan Foundation has agreed to appoint Obiang as official “host” of the Summit, which boasts the stated aim of fostering: “an atmosphere of open dialogue about the state of human rights and the interconnected issues of modern Africa." Obiang will also deliver its opening night speech.
“This is the equivalent of organising a conference on free speech in North Korea, then getting Kim Jong-un to cut the ribbon,” complained Thor Halvorssen, the founder of the Human Rights Foundation, an international pressure group which last night called for the event to be cancelled. “You literally could not pick a worse place to host a summit on African human rights. It reeks of hypocrisy and corruption.”
A list of celebrity guests obtained by The Independent reveals that the Foundation has offered all-expenses-paid trips to the conference to dozens of public figures and minor celebrities, including Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, actors Alfre Woodard and Tatyana Ali, singer Stevie Wonder, and the former basketball star Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. Some have also been offered money to attend. It remains unclear how many, if any, of them have accepted.
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