SA backs another tyrant

2012-03-17 16:07

South Africa has again erred on the side of a dictator.

City Press has learnt that South Africa has given its support to a ­science prize that President ­Teodoro Obiang Nguema ­Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has bequeathed to Unesco, which is based in Paris, France.

The $3 million (R23 million) prize, originally named after the controversial president, who is the longest serving head of state in ­Africa, came under fire ­because of its origin.

Human rights groups decried Unesco’s decision to allow the prize to be accepted. It is now named the Equatorial Guinea-Unesco Prize.

The prize is part of a worldwide charm offensive by Obiang to clear his image, which is tainted by ­corruption and fraud allegations against him and his son.

Media are restricted in Equatorial Guinea and very little of the country’s oil reserves trickle down to the ­population.

Obiang’s son, Teodorin, is seen as an international playboy who had his 17 supercars in Paris attached as part of an investigation into his ill-gotten gains.

Human rights groups say the prize cannot be awarded because accepting it is endorsing the ­regime.
South Africa commented for the first time this week: “South Africa fully supports the implementation of the Unesco-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences.

“The Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences was endorsed by the general conference (of Unesco) and is the first and only prize ­coming from the African continent,” said Linda Maso, counsellor to the South African Permanent Delegation to Unesco.

“And the 2011 Summit of Heads of State and Government of the ­African Union expressed its ­support for the Unesco-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life ­Sciences. South Africa is an ­African country and an active ­participant of the African Union, and was part and parcel of that ­decision.”

Obiang sneaked a resolution into the recent African Union summit in January in Addis ­Ababa, where he was the chairman.

While everyone was focused on the elections for the African Union commission chairperson, he ­managed to in the dead of night get a resolution approved that ­endorsed the prize.

Obiang visited South Africa in October last year to encourage South Africans to invest in Equatorial Guinea.

“Nations that share the same leanings must get together and grow closer,” Obiang told ­journalists at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“There is no presence of South Africa in our development process. South African business can benefit from the big resources at our ­disposal,” Obiang said, dangling a carrot.

“(They can) get access to our ­immense resources, which are there for all to partake of,” Obiang said.

Equatorial Guinea’s economy depends almost entirely on oil, which generates revenue of ­$4 billion and makes the per capita annual income of the country $37 900, the same as Belgium.

At the time of Obiang’s visit, President Jacob ­Zuma had already showed his support for the prize.

“(The rejection of the prize) shows how biased the world can be. One would’ve thought this would be embraced. It shows how prejudiced the world can be.”

Obiang also went to Swaziland and Zimbabwe shortly before the African Union summit, allegedly to lobby support for African Union commission chairperson Jean Ping, but also to offer some of the opportunities in his countries to President Robert Mugabe and King Mswati III.

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