Washington D.C., August 6, 2012 – For several months, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation has been under news, twitter, and blog attacks by journalists and vocal “human rights
organizations” who have used smear tactics and yellow journalism to undermine the upcoming Ninth Leon H. Sullivan Summit which will be held in the West Central African Country of Equatorial Guinea. Under the moral misnomer of a selfless mission focused on advancing “human rights” in the developing world, these organizations use the politics of destruction and cheap buzz-words to bring attention to themselves without fact checking or simple truth verification of their outrageous claims of ongoing abuse and corruption. These critics continuously harp about the same outdated news accounts, the same salacious and blasphemous statements about corruption and poor governance, and the same tawdry details of widely publicized legal matters concerning members of the family of the President of Equatorial Guinea, in particular, his young son Teodorin.
Personally, I had taken the position that I would remain silent amidst their misguided rants, as it is clear that they have no understanding of the purpose of the Leon H. Sullivan Summits. I learned many years ago that the learning curve is extraordinarily steep when you set out to re-educate misinformed individuals who are clearly hell-bent on throwing rocks at others. However, over the past few days, the architects of this campaign to destroy the 2012 Summit, chose to make their attacks personal, when they made the vile assertion that The Sullivan Summit, and I by extension, are destroying the reputation of my late father, a man who I not only loved as a devoted daughter, but a man who I believe possessed one of the most brilliant and progressive minds of the twentieth century.
Why Is Equatorial Guinea the host of the Summit?
This question has been asked and answered ad nauseum, but I will do so once again in the hopes that some might learn a bit more about the Leon H. Sullivan Summit, the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, the emerging face of the African Diaspora and the all important coalition of African leadership which guides the Leon H. Sullivan Summit and the legacy of my late father.
The Leon H. Sullivan Summit is hosted in African countries, which are members of the African Union (AU). The AU serves as a vehicle whereby Africa can solve their own social and economic problems as well as other political issues and the many issues they face as a result of globalization. The African Union is Africa’s forum; it is a platform for the leaders of Africa, a unifying and strengthening coalition for the onward development and unification of Africa.
In January 2011, the President of Equatorial Guinea, OBIANG NGUEMA MBASOGO was elected to the Presidency of the African Union. As such, it seems ironic at best that the individuals who harbor such anger and hatred of President Obiang are discounting the fact that he was chosen to lead this august body of nations by the other leaders of Africa.
For centuries, Africa has been exploited, denigrated, and treated as the habitat of people of inferior intellect. Through the process of independence, Africa and Africans have been able to reposition themselves and their nations as self-governing nations. Moreover, when the nations of Africa speak in one voice, in the great tradition of democracy that Africa has been encouraged to adopt across the board, the result of that process by many is considered unethical by those journalists and organizations who disagree with their leaderships.
It would appear that some would still like to be in the position of controlling the people and the resources of Africa. We can call their missions those of human rights or apply whatever label we might choose, to soften the denial of the voice of the African citizenry, but the truth lies in the blatant disrespect of the voice and choice of the African people. Today, through the advent of the internet and free access to make an impression on the opinions of others, there is a new threat to Africa, it is the threat of the opinionated albeit totally irrelevant journalists and bloggers who are armed only with an ax to grind and an arrogance which leads them to believe that they, more so than the African people, are better able to determine who should lead the nations of Africa.
This Summit might not occur in a country that others might choose, but it might very well be a teachable moment for some individuals to acknowledge the irony of their arrogance and an opportunity to finally accept the tenets of the lofty ideals of democracy – whether they agree with the result of the process or not. Democracy, and ultimately human rights, are rooted in the belief that the governed shall chose their own path, not a colonial master, and not a bitter angry blogger who has never set foot on the soil which he chooses to disrupt.
Some who now correctly refer to Leon Sullivan as a champion of human rights are the very same individuals who criticized him for his engagement in apartheid South Africa when he unleashed the powerful Sullivan Principles in the early 1970s.
Oddly enough, members of certain critical organizations have also made millions of dollars through their socially conscious investment strategies – a literal copycat of the work that my father was criticized so roundly for creating in the early 1980’s.
The criticism of my father at that time, as is their criticism of me in mine, was his insistence on working within the framework of Africa to assist in the evolution of what is now a free South Africa. My father did not agree with those who believed that solutions could be achieved by ignoring the issues that exist. At that time there were calls for a complete economic embargo against the Republic of South Africa in an effort to literally “starve” the nation into submission to democracy. My father believed that starving the system would only lead to violence and bloodshed at desperation. It would meet the resolve of pride and fear and would not help bring about change within that system; to the contrary, he knew that it would only be through economic engagement with that system that the people of South Africa would be able to participate in their economy and ultimately in the global economy. In the process of defending his beliefs my father was roundly criticized and many so-called “human rights” organizations chastised him relentlessly for his insistence on corporate disobedience rather than total divestment. It was this concept, which has now created the entire cottage industry of Corporate Social Responsibility, the basis upon which the UN Millennium Compact and the Calvert Principles were based on.
The legacy of Leon Sullivan is one that does not run away from challenges, controversies, or criticism. The fact is that organizations, which are created with the spirit of destruction, such as the ones who make their livelihoods bashing others even as they attempt to build records of improvements and reform, are the very same organizations that must create and maintain controversy in order to survive.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful right that we share, but it must be balanced with truth and verification of facts. It is appalling to read about the blatant untruths that are being perpetrated by journalists and these isolated and disassociated tiny pseudo-organizations to make inflammatory and tortuous claims about others, without any effort or inclination to actually come on the ground to Equatorial Guinea to verify their statements.
The truth is that President Obiang has modernized his country and has implemented major political reforms. As I look around Equatorial Guinea, it appears the entire country is a worksite in which capital and technology from around the world participate without discrimination – and which provides tens of thousands of jobs for the people of Equatorial Guinea in the process. The US State Department states as follows about the most recent elections in EG: International elections observers reported that the elections were conducted in a free and fair manner.
President Obiang has elected voluntarily, to comply with the rules and obligations of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). These rules govern the use of resources provided by oil, natural gas, and other extractive industries. As of today, there are those critics of the Leon Sullivan Summit who sat on the Board of Directors during the same time period when President Obiang chose to voluntarily comply with their standards. If these critics wish, they are more than welcome to attend the Summit and see for themselves the advancements made by President Obiang for his country.
I urge these critics to make better use of their time writing positive stories about Africa, and reporting truthfully on the legacies of fearless men, particularly those whose wisdom is in no small part the basis upon which they find their daily incomes.
*Hope Masters Sullivan is President and CEO of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation.