Unesco criticised over dictator's $300,000 prize

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The Independent Online

A Human rights group has accused Unesco of gross hypocrisy for its collaboration with Equatorial Guinea's dictator of 30 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Global Witness called on the UN body to cancel a $300,000 prize, named after the African president which is due to be awarded for the first time next year in recognition of scientific research that leads to "improving the quality of human life".

Activists have accused the president of enriching himself, his family and his cronies with oil money while his people become more impoverished. Last month he was declared the winner of the award with 95 per cent of the votes in an election that opponents and international human rights groups denounced as a fraud.

"This prize hits new heights of hypocrisy," said Simon Taylor, Global Witness director, calling Mr Obiang "a despotic kleptocrat whose corrupt behaviour has condemned his citizens to dire poverty". Human Rights Watch has also described the partnership as "a troubling and ironic development, considering the government's lack of investment" in its own citizens. Unesco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Other UN agencies have reported a rise in infant mortality since oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea in 1994.