Edited: 27 February, 2012, 02:02
Many an African leader has a modest dwelling or two in the nicer neighborhoods of Paris, the city of lights and other delicacies.
Teodora Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been president of Equatorial Guinea since 1979. He is also one of the wealthiest heads of state in the world. He gets elected again and again with some 96 per cent of the vote.
Ali Bongo has been president of Gabon since 2009. He inherited his position after rigged elections from his father El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, himself president of Gabon from 1967 until his demise in 2009. Denis Sassou Nguesso has been president of Congo-Brazaville since 1997, and was previously president from 1979 to 1992. In 1992 he lost the first and, so far, only democratic elections in his country. The good and pure democrat he always was, he overthrew this government and returned to power. Since then he always gets “re-elected” unopposed.
Apart from their being heads of state of African countries, these men have a few other things in common. They all feel at ease in the cultural bubble of upper class Europe. They also are all extremely wealthy while the rest of their people live in abject poverty. None of them can be considered elected in a true democratic manner. Oh, there also this other thing. They have OIL. Lots of it.
Well, they do not really “have” oil. It’s more accurate to say that its foreign oil companies who own it. All three manage to keep the flow going. The profits of the oil extraction are well spent.
It’s actually the African people who own this resource. Luckily we have these three thugs to take care of that little problem.
It has not been big in the headlines but French justice has been investigating their spending in France for some years now. Private jets have been coming and going to Paris. Gold, jewelry, mansions, expensive wine, sports cars, villas …
It so happens that the French justice is actually dragging their feet as much as possible. The only reason why they are looking into this is because of the courageous work of several NGOs in France who have been fighting a legal battle for some years now. The US Department of Justice is starting to look into the matter, even Spain (Equatorial Guinea is a former Spanish colony).
There are good reasons why the French authorities would like to bury the whole matter. It does not look good to protect such blatantly corrupt African dictators for the moment. Certainly not when you want to appear firm on democracy in Libya or at the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in Tunis. “To appear” is the operative verb here.
After all, you never know where this investigation might end. In the account of many a multinational or some top politician, for example.
This is not to say that France and other European countries oppose genuine democracy as such. On the contrary, they would love it. However, there is one condition: as long as it does not interfere with “our” interests. And that is the problem. Democracy does have this flaw that Africans/Asians/Latin-Americans don’t seem to master: democracy tends to look after the interests of its own people. No can do!
We in the First World oppose democracy in Congo, Guinea and Gabon for the same reason that we prevent it in Egypt and Libya.
Those who claim that Africa is doomed because of their corrupt leadership are gravely mistaken. Africa does have democratic potential. I gave some examples in previous blogs: Another African leader that never stood a chance (18 December 2011) and Why true African leaders never stand a chance (8 October 2011).
If we were ever serious about democracy or about fighting corruption, we would have stopped these three despots 30 years ago. We didn’t and the African people keep suffering for it.
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