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Equatorial Guinea Urges UNESCO to Implement Award

The Equatorial Guinea’s presidential adviser on international relations has called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to implement a lifetime achievement award sponsored by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

The executive board of the world body is scheduled to meet in the French capital, Paris Tuesday.

Presidential adviser Agapito Mba Mokuy said Equatorial Guinea expects UNESCO’s secretariat as well as the director to implement the award.

“Since the award has already been approved by the executive board of UNESCO, our expectation is that the secretariat or the director general of UNESCO will implement that decision.”

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

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo

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

Critics cite the likelihood that Mr. Mbasogo’s donation might have come from corruption, kickbacks and other theft. They also said President Mbasogo should rather invest the money in the country’s educational sector.

But, Equatorial Guinea rejected the criticism in a released statement saying, “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.”

Presidential adviser Mba Mokuy said UNESCO is engaged in a “double standard” by refusing to implement the award despite a decision taken by member states.

“Recently, UNESCO produced a report on the literacy rate worldwide. And on that report, they put Equatorial Guinea with a literacy rate of 93 percent and placed Equatorial Guinea as the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa that has made good progress in literacy rate. It is ironic that on the one hand they are saying you are not investing in education, but on the other hand they are realizing that the country is making some progress.”