U.S-Based Foundation Shames Memory of Late Civil Rights Leader by Hosting Human Rights Summit in One of World’s Worst Dictatorships
Established by an American civil rights leader, The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation has been criticized for hosting a human rights summit in one of Africa’s most despotic countries.
Sullivan Summit IX was held August 20-24 in Equatorial Guinea, where Teodoro Obiang Nguema has ruled as dictator for 33 years. In a nation rich with oil but with 60% of the population living in poverty, more than 2,000 people are meeting at a five-star resort to discuss human rights and economic development.
Human rights organizations have blasted the Sullivan Foundation for helping Obiang clean up his reputation as an international tyrant. In recent years, the Equatorial Guinea ruler has spent millions of dollars to revamp his worldly image. This effort includes hiring Qorvis Communications, a Washington DC-based public relations firm.
The summit does not represent the first time that the Sullivan Foundation has assisted Obiang. Last December it honored the dictator with the “Beacon for Africa” award for “exemplary contributions to improving the lives of Africa's most vulnerable citizens.”
The foundation was created in honor of Leon H. Sullivan, a Baptist minister who crusaded for civil rights during the 1960s and later opposed the system of apartheid in South Africa. After he died in 2001, his daughter, Hope Sullivan Masters, founded the foundation, which she continues to run
Masters has claimed critics of the summit have used “smear tactics and yellow journalism” to unjustly tarnish the foundation and the event. She also has called for “critics to make better use of their time writing positive stories about Africa.”
To Learn More:
How Dictators Triumph: With a Little Help From Their Friends (by Thor Halvorssen and Tutu Alicante, Huffington Post)
A Human Rights Toast for an African Tyrant (by Thor Halvorssen and George Ayittey, Wall Street Journal)
Leon Sullivan (Wikipedia)
UNESCO Set to Present Award Funded by African Dictator (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Dictator of the Month: Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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