Whitewashing a Dictator

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Halvorssen and Ayittey’s letter attracted widespread attention (as did their article about this travesty that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on August 8).  Around the world, people familiar with Sullivan’s legacy expressed shock at the cozy relationship that appears to exist between the Sullivan Foundation and the Obiang dictatorship.  What, many wondered, would Sullivan have made of this spectacle?  The attention had some effect: the summit’s keynote speaker canceled, as did others who had apparently planned to attend.  The name of Bill Clinton, who had been identified on the organization’s website as an honorary chairman, suddenly and mysteriously disappeared.  And Andrew Young, in a curious response to a letter from the Human Rights Foundation, claimed that he is no longer chairman of the Sullivan Foundation (even though he is identified as such on its website) and added that he has “not attended Sullivan Foundation Board meetings in 2012” and consequently “was not a party to the decision to hold the Summit in Equatorial Guinea” – a decision announced, note well, in 2011.

Yet Masters, far from changing her tune, shot back at her critics on August 6 in a semi-literate blog post in which she avoided all the matters of substance that they had raised and instead played the – um –  postcolonialism card.  How dare these Westerners criticize Obiang, whose people had made him their president and whose fellow African leaders had picked him to lead the African Union?  “For centuries,” she thundered, “Africa has been exploited, denigrated, and treated as the habitat of people of inferior intellect…. It would appear that some would still like to be in the position of controlling the people and the resources of Africa.”  As if she feared that she wasn’t making her point obvious enough, she spelled it out in a tweet (later deleted): “Racism is alive and well.”  On August 10, in the face of rising criticism, she posted a You Tube video – also semi-literate – reaffirming her determination to go ahead with the summit.

I may be wrong, but from what I have read and seen about Leon Sullivan, he would have been repulsed by the now-familiar argument that the way tyrants treat their subjects in a non-Western country is no business of Westerners – that the history of Western colonialism compels Westerners to keep their mouths shut about even the most egregious human-rights abuses in former Western colonies.  Certainly there’s no question that he’d be appalled by the shady dealings that his daughter’s feeble attempt at a cultural-relativist smokescreen seem designed to obscure.  As Joe Kraus of the human-rights group Equatorial Guinea Justice charges, the Sullivan Foundation is “being used to launder the image of the world’s longest-serving ruler”; or, to quote Halvorssen, the foundation “appears to be running a disinformation campaign for a dictator.”  In return, apparently, that dictator is bankrolling the foundation, which, according to U.S. News and World Report, is desperately in need of the dough.  The level of support is such that the Equatoguinean summit is even being advertised on buses in Washington, D.C. linking Obiang’s dictatorship with Leon H. Sullivan’s name.  (It is interesting to note, by  the way, that the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation was not founded by Sullivan: instead, he founded an Arizona-based group that apparently does in practice what the Sullivan Foundation claims to do in its mission statement.)

If things are as they seem to be, then, Hope Sullivan Masters has made the ultimate deal with the devil: in exchange for cold, hard cash, she’s using the cachet of her father’s name to give one of the world’s most savage governments a squeaky-clean human-rights image – briefly put, she’s lining her pockets by running a propaganda operation for a thug.  If this is indeed what’s going on here, Masters is committing a multiple betrayal: she’s besmirching her father’s heroic legacy; she’s doing something that will, to some degree, and in some quarters, taint the image of all human-rights organizations; and, most important, she’s cynically and selfishly trampling on the already trampled people of Equatorial Guinea, whose greatest hope for the future lies with groups, such as the Human Rights Foundation, that actually care about them.

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  • Chezwick

    So, the 'Leon H. Sullivan Foundation' has – like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation before it – been hijacked by the left, betrayed its name-sake's legacy, and works for causes in contravention to the name-sake's life's work. What else is new? Just one more example of the profound cultural hegemony of the liberal-left in the Western world.

    In my inter-actions with friends and family, it is all too apparent that the culture war is being lost because of social issues. Conservatives are successfully (and falsely) portrayed as intolerant, bible-thumping extremists.

    We need to redefine the debate, and concentrate on political-economic issues such as border security and immigration laws, national security, and – foremost – fiscal policy. We have to so discredit the free-spending, big-government, debt-accruing, future-mortgaging liberal policies that define our cultural enemies until the very word 'liberal' will have such negative connotations that liberals will run away from it.

  • Victor

    Bruce, how long have you lived in EG/ how many times have you visited? we cannot make changes here without open dialogue. Boycotting the summit does not put Obiang on the spot to answer for injustice. That is why I am happy that people like the Sullivans who are interested in justice are coming. We need people to come and see for themselves what is happening here, not just write articles from a distance. Things are changing here. we need all of Africa to come and see and help us.

    • aspacia

      Boycott and have an opposition summit similar to those against Durban III.

      If you do not know, I am not insulting you intelligence, but Durban I was a HATE ISRAEL/JEWS Summit masked as a Human Rights Summit. This summit incorporated numerous vicious ME/African dictators who continually violate human rights in their lands. Durban was a diversion/red herring to shift focus from their atrocities to Israel.

  • UCSPanther

    The Obiang Regime is the epitome of your typical parasitic tin pot dictatorship, and while it could be the "Texas" of subsaharan Africa with a high standard of living, it instead is a poverty-striken pit.

    Of course, Teodoro Obiang's uncle, Francisco Macías Nguema was much worse. He was a psychotic maniac who caused Equatorial Guinea to be known as the "Dachau of Africa",as he was notorious for ordering massacres at the drop of a hat, and he bears much of the blame for making Equatorial Guinea the post colonial failure it is now known as.

    The fact any human rights group would give this disgusting, corrupt-to-the-core regime the time of day is yet another height of hypocrisy.

    • mlcblog

      Down in Oakland the praying grandmothers are saying, God, expose the devil.

      Great reporting!! even though I have heard of this a bit before I am glad to see it exposed more fully.

  • aspacia

    Sullivan's daughter, similar to too man blacks, is betraying her father and King's legacy.