Thursday, August 25, 2011
THIS WAS OMAR BONGO
This was Omar Bongo. He’s dead now, but his story – a snippet of which was sent to me by our pals at Delancey Place – is a near perfect example of why Africa is a bloody mess with AIDS, AK47s, famine, cocaine and gunpowder.
"Bongo's story is a miniature tale of what happened when France formally relinquished its colonies. As countries in Africa and elsewhere gained in- dependence, the old beneficiaries of the French empire set up new ways to stay in control behind the scenes. Gabon became independent in 1960, just as it was starting to emerge as a promising new African oil frontier, and France paid it particular attention. France needed to install the right president: an authentic African leader who would be charismatic, strong, cunning, and, when it mattered, utterly pro-French. In Omar Bongo they found the perfect can- didate: He was from a tiny minority ethnic group and had no natural domestic support base, so he would have to rely on France to protect him. In 1967, aged just 32, Bongo became the world's youngest president, and for good measure France placed several hundred paratroopers in a barracks in Libreville, connected to one of his palaces by underground tunnels. This intimidating deterrent against coup plots proved so effective that by the time Bongo died in 2009, he was the world's longest-serving leader. In exchange for France's backing Bongo gave two things. First, he gave French companies almost exclusive access to his country's minerals, on highly preferential terms that were deeply unfair to the people of Gabon. The country became known as French companies' chasse gardee - their private hunting ground. But the second thing Bongo provided was more interesting. He allowed his country, through its oil industry, to become the African linchpin of the gigantic, secret Elf system - a vast web of global corruption secretly connecting the oil industries of former French African colonies with mainstream politics in metropolitan France, via Switzerland, Luxembourg, and other tax havens.”
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The secret word is Jane
Posted by Mick at 8/25/2011 04:55:00 AM