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U.N. Refuses to Cancel Prize Named for Dictator

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – A life sciences award administered by the U.N. agency UNESCO and funded by the President of Equatorial Guinea has stirred outrage among the exile community and human rights activists worldwide.

In a letter to the Paris-based UNESCO office, Tutu Alicante of EG Justice wrote: “We repeat our call for the $3 million that UNESCO has accepted from President Obiang to be applied to the education and welfare of Equatoguineans, rather than the glorification of their president.” The money could better be used, he said, to buy school books, benches and other supplies for the poorly financed primary school system.

The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences is a $300,000 grant to be awarded to up to three scientists each year in the name of Equatorial Guinea's allegedly corrupt and repressive ruler.

Equatorial Guinea is Africa's fourth largest oil producer. Most health and quality-of-life indicators rank the country West African nation near the bottom, with life expectancy at around 50 years old.

Objections were first raised in 2008 by executive board members of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said Alicante. More recently, UNESCO received communications from Equatoguinean human rights defenders, global civil society groups, scholars, and others to cancel the prize without delay.

"We hope you agree that a political leader with this record is not worthy of the positive endorsement of UNESCO," Human Rights Watch wrote. Nevertheless, on April 22 UNESCO informed governments that it plans to award the UNESCO-Obiang prize for the first time at the end of June 2010.

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