The Atlantic Council and the Human Rights Foundation at loggerheads over Gabon, Bahrain, Kazakhstan and Eritrea

October 27, 2016

Having reported last month on the Atlantic Council‘s questionable idea of giving an award to Gabon’s leader [https://thoolen.wordGabon’s leaderpress.com/2016/09/20/how-awards-can-get-it-wrong-four-controversial-decisions-in-one-week/], I would be amiss in not referring the big spat that this has developed into between Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation and Frederick Kempe of the Atlantic Council. In opinion page in The Hill of 26 October does not mince words. The final paragraph sets the tone: “It’s fair to wonder how Kempe and his staff can look at themselves in the mirror every morning when they spend their days defending dictators like Eritrea’s Afwerki, Gabon’s Bongo, and Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev. The donations might be juicy, but at some point, Kempe’s colleagues and prestigious board members must stop and realize that they are taking the side of tyrants, betraying the very ideals they set out to promote in the first place.” Some of the juicy excerpts:

Some organizations are more subtle in their relationships with foreign governments. … But given the recent behavior of the [Atlantic] Council and its president, Frederick Kempe, it appears that the organization is using its legitimacy as a veil to hide a whitewashing operation just as morally bankrupt as any public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

Questions began to surface about the Council’s integrity in 2012, when the organization threw a praise party for Kazakhstan’s authoritarian regime…..In August 2016 the New York Times reported that the Atlantic Council “has seen its annual revenue grow to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade” by offering “access to United States and foreign government officials in exchange for contributions.”

Today, human rights abusing regimes in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates top the Council’s public donor list, and continue to be the beneficiaries of the organization’s public relations spin. For example, despite a brutal five-year crackdown on pro-democracy activists, the Council would have us believe that “no country in the Gulf region and perhaps in the broader Arab world has thought about and experimented with reform more than the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

The Atlantic Council’s latest dalliance with a dictator unfolded this summer when Frederick Kempe and his staff decided to bestow a “Global Citizen Award” on the dictator of Gabon…. Halvorssen received emails from Kempe that are worth quoting: ]

– “You are perhaps the most irresponsible person who has ever sent me an email. I have no intention of ever answering another one again.” 

– “You are unhinged and you need help. Not from me. But let’s leave that aside. I don’t have those psychiatric skills. But you do seem to be a total whack job.”

–  “We should be allies, given what you profess to care about. But clearly you are driven by money interests that prompt you in a different direction…

On 30 September Kempe placed a rebuttal in Foreign Policy called “The Atlantic Council Did Not Give A Global Citizen Award To Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba.” The title is a farce, given that Council publicly stated that they “would not rescind Mr Bongo’s award.” …..

The piece in the Hill ten details links between the Atlantic Council and Gabon …

Beyond Gabon, it must be noted that the most despicable work done by the Atlantic Council is on behalf of the Eritrean regime. …

Source: The Atlantic Council’s questionable relationship with Gabon’s leader | TheHill

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