Human rights organizations panned the United Nations’ cultural arm, UNESCO, for awarding a prize sponsored by Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Human Rights Watch said Obiang “leads a government known for corruption and repression,” and has been accused of committing rights abuses in Equatorial Guinea, a small country in West Africa, and he should not be able to give out and fund a science prize via UNESCO.
“It is shameful and utterly irresponsible for UNESCO to award this prize, given the litany of serious legal and ethical problems surrounding it,” said Tutu Alicante, the head of human rights group EG Justice.
UNESCO is slated to award the prize worth around $3 million on Tuesday in Paris.
“Beyond letting itself be used to polish the sullied image of Obiang, UNESCO also risks ruining its own credibility,” Alicante added.
Transparency International has said that Obiang and his son have illegally used state funds to buy luxury cars and high-dollar property in France, saying Equatorial Guinea is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The country has large reserves of oil but many of its residents are very poor. Transparency accused Obiang of not usingoil revenues and other income to improve the lives of people in Equatorial Guinea.