Star Barcelona player Lionel Messi has been criticized by the Human Rights Foundation after his recent trip to Gabon. In an article I read on The Telegraph’s website, the foundation claims Messi was demonstrating “enthusiastic support for the dictatorship.” Gabon’s President Ali Bongo has been accused of being a dictator by the HRF. They claim the Bongo family has had complete control over all political, economic, and social aspects of Gabon since 1967. They also claim the local media has turned a blind eye on an ongoing scandal where countless Gabonese children are murdered and their organs harvested for black market sale.
The most critical of the accusations against Ali Bongo is that the dictator has facilitated these disappearances and murders. The Oslo Freedom Forum states that the rich elite in Gabon engage in ritual murder and cannibalism in a superstitious belief that it will give them power and influence.
HRF president Thor Halvorssen stated that by providing PR services to the Bongo family of Gabon, Messi undermined his own credibility as well as seriously damaging the efforts of his own charitable foundation. Messi claims to support children’s rights, and the soccer star even serves as a UNICEF ambassador to promote youth education. Unfortunately, he has endorsed a regime that refuses to investigate countless allegations of horrific crimes against children.
Messi was Bongo’s guest of honor as the set the first stone at the construction of the Port-Gentil stadium. The stadium will be the main venue for the African Cup of Nations tournament being held in Gabon in 2017. France Football claims that Messi was paid 3.5 million Euros for his trip; however, both the Argentinian and Gabon embassies have denied this. THey claim Messi has received no compensation for his trip.
Gabon’s president Bongo told reporters “When I was in Barcelona a few years ago, I met Messi who had told me that he would come to visit me in Libreville. It’s a promise he made me. He is a man of honour who just kept his word.”
Criticism against the Barcelona star forward also came from inside the country itself. The political party Union du Peuple Gabonais criticized Messi for a lack of respect and decorum after he wore denim shirts and a Barcelona t-shirt to an official event. They claimed that Messi arrived in Gabon as dirty, unshaven, and carrying his hands in his pockets. They accused him of looking as if he was going to a zoo not an official government function. The party states that the multi billion soccer player is too important a public figure to present himself in such a casual manner. The party made no mention of the crimes alleged by the Human Rights Foundation in The Weekly Standard. Instead they chose to focus on Messi’s apparent lack of respect and overall negligent attitude towards the country’s principles and standards.