Equatorial Guinea’s strongman lambasts Libya intervention, then attends NTC celebration

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama and his coalition partners celebrated the down-fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi in a U.N. ceremony convened to bless the victory of the National Transitional Council (NTC), which raised its flag for the first time at U.N. headquarters. Several countries which had opposed a military solution in Libya, principally China and South ...

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EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama and his coalition partners celebrated the down-fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi in a U.N. ceremony convened to bless the victory of the National Transitional Council (NTC), which raised its flag for the first time at U.N. headquarters.

Several countries which had opposed a military solution in Libya, principally China and South Africa, put the past behind them and announced they would now recognize the new government, congratulating their new leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who attended the event.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama and his coalition partners celebrated the down-fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi in a U.N. ceremony convened to bless the victory of the National Transitional Council (NTC), which raised its flag for the first time at U.N. headquarters.

Several countries which had opposed a military solution in Libya, principally China and South Africa, put the past behind them and announced they would now recognize the new government, congratulating their new leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who attended the event.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, of Equatorial Guinea, who replaced Qaddafi as Africa’s longest-ruling leader, was also on hand. Obiang, who is serving as the African Union president, announced that the group had formally decided to recognize the new government of the NTC as Libya’s lawful government.

But in a speech today before the U.N. General Assembly, Obiang launched a bitter attack against the West’s invocation of human rights to intervene in African crises.

Obiang appeared to be referring to the U.N.-authorized military operation against Qaddafi’s government and the French-backed U.N. operation that brought down Ivory Coast’s longtime ruler Laurent Gbagbo.

“Africa, a continent whose nations and people have been exploited for centuries by foreign powers, is confronting a new version of neocolonialism of military intervention based on the principles of human rights and democratic liberty,” he said. “Unfortunately, we see the United Nations being fraudulently used, under the pretext of humanitarian intervention, when such intervention has only served to violate more human rights of the people affected.’

Obiang also weighed in on the financial crisis, attributing it to the “irrationality of the current political, economic, and social order,” which he claimed has become “disconnected from the social and humanitarian principles of equality, justice, and fairness.”

Talk about irony: Critics, human rights groups, and journalists have long accused Obiang’s government of becoming disconnected from the principles of equality, justice, and fairness at home. And yet Obiang reportedly has been seeking to re-launch his campaign to establish a UNESCO award in his own name.

Readers of Turtle Bay will recall the controversy surrounding Obiang’s earlier attempt to fund a UNESCO life sciences award. The effort was blocked after human rights organizations and Equatoguinean exile groups protested the move, saying the Obiang family had engaged in serious human rights abuses and — despite its standing as the Africa’s third-largest oil producer — invested scant amounts of money into programs for the poor. The government denied the charges.

Since, Obiang has hired a load of PR consultants to repair his image, and has taken to portraying Equatorial Guinea as a pillar of security in the region.

“There are signs that Equatorial Guinea is also laying the groundwork for a new bid to persuade a new slate of UNESCO board members that its president is indeed a man worth honoring,” Kenneth Hurwitz, a senior legal officer at the Soros Foundation’s Justice Initiative, wrote in a recent blog post. The campaign so far has included taking advantage of the country’s current position holding the presidency of the African Union. Obiang secured a courtesy resolution of support from African Union heads of state when they met in Equatorial Guinea in July: the resolution urged UNESCO to implement its earlier decision to set up the prize, which would “contribute to research in the life sciences.”

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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