By Alex Gladstein
Beginning next week on August 20 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea the world's longest-ruling non-royal—Teodoro Obiang Nguema—will host a "human rights" summit. It is being organized by a US-based charity, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, which is headed by Hope Sullivan Masters and includes president Bill Clinton as co-chairman of the board and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young as its other co-chairman. The effort is part of Obiang's systematic effort to whitewash his repressive regime and sweep 33 years of dictatorship and 44 years of human rights violations, under the rug as his government continues to amass oil wealth.
World Policy Journal was provided a copy of the list of VIP guests invited to the Sullivan Summit. It includes high profile figures from the worlds of sports, politics, entertainment, and media. All of the individuals below were offered an all-expenses paid trip, underwritten by the Obiang dictatorship, to celebrate his achievements and toast his "political reforms". Some of the individuals on the list have declined the offer. Most of them have refused to respond to media inquiries as to whether or not they will attend.
Obiang has ruled Equatorial Guinea with the very methods the Summit claims to oppose—censorship, torture, extrajudicial executions, rigged elections, and totalitarian control. Moreover, despite a GDP per capita of more than $35,000 (more than France, the UK, Spain, or Japan), two-thirds of Equatoguineans live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day. The Obiang family loots most of the oil profits, exemplifying one of the world’s most kleptocratic regimes with a global reputation for profligate spending and obscene luxury. His brutal repression of the press, pilfering of state coffers, and iron grip on the state’s election mechanisms have earned Obiang sixth place on World Policy Journal’s Autocracy Index, which will appear in our fall issue, placing him in the company of Kim Jong Un, Alexander Lukashenko, and Robert Mugabe.
Despite the fact that Obiang has engaged in rule by violence, managing to hold power for 33 years and won the last three presidential elections by more than 95 percent, the Sullivan Foundation states that “in recent years, President Obiang has made significant reforms in his country and the Central African regions stressing the importance of democratic ideals.” In spite of the Obiang regime’s repression, the Sullivan Foundation even issues a press release claiming that the Summit “will showcase to the international community the advancement Equatorial Guinea has made in human development and the human rights arena.”
The Sullivan Summit has been extensively covered by world media. Some 32 advocacy groups have signed a petition challenging participants to educate themselves in advance of the summit, in hopes that they reconsider attending an event in honor of one of the world’s most brutal dictators.
The event itself, to take place at the billion-dollar Sipopo Conference Center, is set to go forward despite calls for its cancellation.
Categories and descriptors used in this invitation list, which follows the break, are as received from a source inside the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. Inclusion does not imply endorsement of Teodoro Obiang Nguema or of the Sullivan Summit.
[UPDATE: Cancellations via Twitter as of 11:35, 08-17-2012]
Operation HOPE CEO John Hope Bryant has cancelled his engangement to serve as a keynote speaker at the Sullivan Summit.
Former President of Ghana, John Kufour, has withndrawn as chairman of the summit and will not be attending.
Actress Tatyana Ali has declined her invitation.
Actress Kim Coles has declined her invitation.
Actress Kim Fields has declined her invitation.
Actor Lamman Rucker has declined her invitation.
Journalist Roland S. Martin has declined his invitation.
Dr. Randal Pinkett, CEO of BCT Partners, has declined his invitation.
Singer-songwriter Ledisi denied receiving an invite, and added that she would never have attended the event even if invited.
Journalist April Woodard and reality-tv star Phaedra Parks deny receiving invitations.
Alex Gladstein is a Program Director at the Human Rights Foundation.
[Photo courtesy of Embassy of Equatorial Guinea]
Marc H. Morial
Martin or Bernice King
Mayor Alvin Brown
Mayor Michael Nutter
Rev. Al Sharpton
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
Rajiv Shah (USAID)
Anna Marie Horsford
Louis Gossett Jr
Phyllis Yvonne Stickney
Sheryl Lee Ralph
Wendy Raquel Robinson
Earl “the Pearl” Monroe
Ramses Barden – NY Giants
Chef Henderson, Food Network
Donna Richardson Joyner
Suzanne de Passe
April Woodard, National Correspondent
Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Ed Gordon, National Correspondent
Jackie Reid, National Correspondent
Jeff Johnson, Politic365
Joe Watkins, MSNBC
Michelle Miller, CBS Correspondent
Mikki Taylor, Essence
Randal Pinkston, CBS Correspondent
Roland Martin, National Correspondent
Shannon Lanier, National Correspondent
TJ Holmes, BET
Valerie Morris, National Correspondent
Other people Invited
Benjamin Crump (Trayvon Martin’s attorney)
Desiree Rogers, CEO Johnson Publishing Co
Dr. Jeff Gardere, TV Host & Psychologist
Melinda Emerson, Author, Speaker
Randal Pinkett, Celebrity Apprentice
Terrie Williams, Stay Strong Foundation, Author and PR
Marc Lamont Hill, author and public speaker
Rodney E. Slater
Bruce B. Stewart
H. Art Taylor