HRF News

Aug 10, 2015

This week HRF drew attention to human rights violations and corruption in the Central African country of Gabon by challenging a recent PR trip by Argentine football star Lionel Messi. The world-famous athlete was invited by the dictator Ali Bongo, whose family has ruled Gabon since 1967. For decades the Bongos have treated Gabon like their personal property, systematically looting the country's vast natural resources, oil wealth, and rainforests. By visiting the country and joining the government’s propaganda machine, Messi—who is a UNICEF ambassador for children’s rights—helped whitewash a tyrant who has refused to investigate the disturbing ritual murders of children. By pointing this out, HRF sparked a global conversation on the little known crimes of the Gabonese dictatorship, educating millions of people through popular culture and mainstream media. We enclose a selection of the news coverage in ten languages below.

HRF has formally invited Messi to issue a statement condemning authoritarianism in Gabon and asking the government to protect Gabonese children and investigate allegations of government involvement in their ritual killing.

If you’d like to learn about how you can help support HRF’s work to make dictatorship front-page news, please contact [email protected]. HRF’s work this week delivered a serious setback to the Bongo family’s expensive efforts to whitewash and cover up their crimes. You can join this effort today by donating on our website now at