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Envoy Denies UNESCO Award Glorifies Equatorial Guinea Leader

  • Peter Clottey

An envoy from Equatorial Guinea has denied that a decision by a U.N. agency to establish an award in the name of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is intended for his glorification.

Juan Bautista Osubita, Equatorial Guinea’s permanent delegate to U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told VOA gross misinformation has led to the controversy over the life science award.

“I think that there is no place for controversy around this prize. It is clear that this prize shouldn’t worry the international community. And, we are very disappointed because of the controversy that has (arisen) because of the prize,” he said.

Osubita said the objective of the UNESCO award was meant to aid researchers in the search for cures of many problems that affect human life. He described such pursuits as honorable and noble.

Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

In 2008, President Nguema reportedly donated $3 million for the UNESCO award scheduled for five years.

Equatorial Guinea’s government said in a statement that the UNESCO prize is intended to promote scientific development and achievements that “improve the quality of human life.”

The move generated intense international controversy. Washington and Norway joined forces in objecting to the award in Mr. Nguema’s name.

Human rights group also condemned the award saying Mr. Nguema’s poor human rights record made him unfit to have the award named in his honor.

Critics say it is likely Mr. Nguema’s donation came from corruption, kickbacks and other theft.

But, Equatorial Guinea rejected the criticism in a released statement stating, "We have no doubt that the entities that created this controversy are showing their true colonialist, discriminatory, racist and prejudiced identity by not accepting that an African president can confer an award of this kind."

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting at its headquarters in Paris, UNESCO’S executive board of directors agreed to study the award further due to what analysts said was the enormous diplomatic controversy the prize generated.