Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hypocrisy, The French, Omar Bongo, and Ghana's Neighbors

For a longtime now, I've had issues with the French and their continued manipulation of their former colonies in sub-saharan Africa. Personally, I believe that as colonial masters the French were (and still are) the worst at pillaging their colonies without developing much in terms of human capital and institutions. Then sometime last month I read the following article on BBC News website after it was clear Omar Bongo was pratically on his death bed:

"French authorities are to investigate the assets of the Gabonese President Omar Bongo, who is accused of misappropriating millions of dollars meant for public services...."

"....It is alleged that the volume of real estate owned by Mr Bongo's family in France could not have been purchased with official salaries alone."

"....In 2007 a police investigation into real estate owned by the president and his family in France disclosed 33 properties in Paris and Nice worth an estimated $190 million. And back in 1999, an investigation by the American senate into the private practices of Citibank estimated that the Gabonese president held $130 million in the bank's personal accounts. "

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Here's the money quote:

"...In a book on the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the investigative journalist Pierre Pean reveals a number of business deals between Mr Kouchner's private consultancy in the early 2000s and the Gabonese government."

Is it possible for a Black African to own (by conservative estimates) $190 Million worth of Real Estate in France without the knowledge and consent of the French government? Just Real Estate! Not boats and bank accounts etc. Just Real Estate.

Gabon has a population of about 1.5 million people. Imagine what $320 millon ($190 million + $130 million) could have done for the lives of ordinary Gabonese.


As Ghana becomes the "Sweden" of the sub-region I worry that the continuing political situation in our neighboring countries (Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ivory Coast) will negatively impact our progress. We all saw what happened in Ivory Coast after Houphouët-Boigny. Thanks to French support, Ivory Coast sat under a "pretend" democracy for many years under Houphouët-Boigny. For all intents and purposes Togo is currently the private property of the Gnassingbé Eyadéma family.