I don’t get it.
The longest serving African head of state, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who has served as
thief of state, I mean head of state of Gabon for the past 41 years finally died last week presumably of cancer. My naive self thought that the people of Gabon could finallybegin to enjoy the riches of their country. How wrong I was.
Instead, they are “crying for their Papa“. Why? And I quote: –
An estimated 400 families spend their days digging with bare hands through the valley of trash, skirting piles of medical waste from a nearby hospital including coils of tubing and bags of blood. They are looking for empty bottles to sell — and food to eat.
“If we find a piece of meat, we shake it off, take it home and give it to our wives to cook,” said 41-year-old Crepin Edou, one of the scavengers who was born the year Bongo took office.
When asked about the president’s massive wealth abroad, he shrugged. Overall, Bongo was a good ruler, he said, pointing out that unlike many other African countries, Gabon has never had a civil war.
“We may be poor,” he said, “but at least I have the right to dig through the trash in peace without worrying about a bullet hitting me.”
Seriously?! What on earth?! It reminds of women who feel that being raped by their husbands is the natural course of things. Ummm, no!
And what is with Sarkozy and other Western dignitaries being there? Are they mourning Bongo or is this something to do with his pillaged millions? Am I to expect that when a former Ghanaian president (or does it have to be the one in power?) dies that Queen Elizabeth would grace our shores? Here, something wants to scream “Nkrumah was different”. But was he?
I’m obviously lacking in my knowledge of African politics, let alone Gabon. Suffice it to say that I’m seriously disturbed.
Other “get the hell out of here moments” while reading the article: –
- By 1985, Libreville held the world record for per capita champagne consumption.
- The first family owned 45 homes in France, including at least 14 in Paris and 11 on the French Riviera. And they boasted of 19 or more luxury cars, including a Bugatti sports model that cost the Republic of Gabon $1.5 million.
- While much of the country still has no paved roads, Bongo spent 14 years and an estimated $4 billion to build a train. He diverted its route at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to reach Franceville, the capital of his native province. Since its opening, the train has required a $60-million-a-year subsidy to stay running.
- Bongo asked Citibank to convert $1.6 million into cash for a single family trip in 1995 to New York.
- 8 percent of Gabon’s budget — around $110 million — is set aside each year for discretionary use by the president’s office
- Bank documents showed increasingly frenetic activity by his numerous children and grandchildren….Gabonese now worry the president’s family will siphon off the country’s remaining wealth, including money from the safe that takes up one wall of Bongo’s former office.
Am I mad?!