Wall Street Journal: A Human Rights Toast for an African Tyrant

Wall Street Journal: A Human Rights Toast for an African Tyrant

Thor Halvorssen and George Ayittey Wall Street Journal | August 8, 2012
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In the campaign for human rights and justice in apartheid South Africa, black American civil rights leaders were instrumental. One was Leon H. Sullivan, who enunciated the "Sullivan Principles" guiding multinational firms toward treating blacks fairly while doing business in South Africa. Why, then, is the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation today celebrating the exploits of a brutal African tyrant?

 

 

In the campaign for human rights and justice in apartheid South Africa, black American civil rights leaders were instrumental. One was Leon H. Sullivan, who enunciated the "Sullivan Principles" guiding multinational firms toward treating blacks fairly while doing business in South Africa. Why, then, is the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation today celebrating the exploits of a brutal African tyrant?

 

On Aug. 20, a plane-load of lobbyists, civil rights leaders, entertainers and former government officials will land in the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea for the Sullivan Summit IX. The summit's stated objective is to "create an atmosphere of open dialogue about the state of human rights and the interconnected issues of modern Africa." Seldom has so much dishonesty fit into one sentence.

 

 

Equatorial Guinea is home to Africa's longest-ruling dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who seized power in a military coup by executing his uncle 33 years ago. Freedom House ranks the country among the "worst of the worst" human-rights abusers, along with North Korea, Syria and Somalia. Yet the Sullivan Foundation is celebrating its Obiang-hosted summit as a milestone for human rights, part of its "unwavering commitment to democratic ideals."

 

According to the agenda posted online, summit attendees will lounge at a five-star resort for a week discussing human rights and economic development, all between black-tie dinners and champagne. They may toast to the petroleum-rich country's staggering per capita income of $36,515 (according to the World Bank), but outside the resort the people of Equatorial Guinea will continue to toil in poverty. Sixty percent live on less than $1 a day, the majority don't have access to clean water or electricity, and nearly one in eight children die before their fifth birthday.

 

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