Monday 8 June 2009

Gabon: Mr. Bongo, your time is up

Breaking News: 17:56 Monday, 8th of June - It has been confirmed that the longest serving ruler in Africa who ruled Gabon for 42 years has died in a foreign hospital in Spain. May the hopes and aspirations of the Gabonese arise.

Is he dead or not?

In what is turning out to be like the Soviet era long drawn out dying throes of leaders like Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, we are suffering the same uncertainties regarding the leader of Gabon.

Since yesterday, the French press opined in quotes and offered the news that the 73-year old eternal incumbent leader of Gabon, El Hadj Omar BONGO Ondimba [1] had passed on [2] from immortality of absolute power to the mortality of succumbing to cancer. []

With Gabon being a former French colony, one would expect that any serious events about that country would be truthfully and verifiably reported by the French press.

However, the rump of what is left of the government in Gabon suggests that false information is being peddled and that Mr. Bongo is “alive and well”. Maybe, Mr. Bongo is alive, the aspect of well is seriously debatable.

The rape of Gabon

The poor people of Gabon who unfortunately have not had the express freedom and right to choose who leads them for the 42 years of this atrocious regime have now been on tenterhooks as turmoil within the government is trying to resolve who steps into the dynasty shoes of the dying king before they probably announce that the President died tomorrow when probably maggots have borne generations of descendants already.

However, one has not begun to touch the travesty of this longest serving ruler in Africa until one explores the circumstances around his eventual demise.

Gabon [3], is an oil-rich country which with the resources it has and the finances that have come into the country could have been a different place, but a majority of its population remains poor.

If a person has been in power for 42 years and the life expectancy of his country is just 53.11 years, there should be a court of justice somewhere on earth to indict the person with a crime against humanity.

In power but not for the people

The President languishes in pain probably ameliorated with morphine in a Spanish hospital with the hope that the probability of his being “alive and well” is a miracle in the making – the Grand Despot of Africa in Zimbabwe is at least 10 years older and seemingly in rude health.

How, anyone could have been in power for 42 years and not been able to establish a first-class hospital along with necessary infrastructure of power, roads and transport as well as the resources of highly trained staff from first class educational institutions in his country escapes me.

This, in the end represents the failure and travesty of leadership in Africa, people who are in power but only for their own self-aggrandisement.

Rulers at home dying abroad

As these leaders have converted their leaderships into life monarchies the sadness of the story reads in a very unAfrican context. As I wrote in a comment I left on AfricanLoft when it was first announced that President Bongo had taken ill and was in hospital in Spain.

Kings in days of yore died in their own beds surrounded by their families and subjects outside the palace walls praying for the safe recovery of their monarchs.

The context being the best medical help was available to the monarch and at his beck and call in his own comfortable and familiar setting.

The irony for the African variation of kings who rule without the express and free consent of their people is that they do not have the best medical help available to them in their own countries all because they failed to serve the interest of their people due to the fact that they could use the resources of the country to jet out to any good hospital abroad at the slightest hint of discomfort.

In the end, they lay in exclusive wards with expensive beds surrounded by strange people and dying in foreign lands far away from where they have ruled with a rod of iron and had given their people no respite in freedom, justice, liberty or choice.

They may have ruled for an eternity, I was hardly 2 years old when Mr. Bongo assumed office, but all we would know of this leadership is squandered opportunities to make something great of what they had control of for all those decades.

Surely, there are others better

To suggest that there are not a thousand other Gabonese if given the opportunity who would not have made a better country of that place than Mr. Bongo is disingenuous at least and contemptible at worst.

This horrible hubris of eternal incumbency [4] unfortunately inflicts Africa badly like a plague as you have Santos in Angola for 30 years, Biya in Cameroon for 27 years, Nguesso in the Congo for 30 years, Mubarak in Egypt for 28 years, Bongo in Gabon for 42 years, Gaddafi in Libya for 40 years, Mswati III in Swaziland for 22 years, al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia for 22 years, Museveni in Uganda for 23 years and Mugabe in Zimbabwe for 29 years.

The unasked question is, which of these countries have been made better by any of these leaders? I would hate to read the CIA – The World Factbook [5] assessments of each country, but I provide the links for your perusal and judge for yourselves.

Their demise brings no respite

But as long regimes do, it would have bred a corrupt class of self-serving snouts in the trough, it is unlikely that the Gabonese would at the eventual demise of Mr. Bongo find true representative leadership that serves their interests.

However, this is an opportunity that should be seized upon by the good minds of Africa to sue for a clear free democratic representation of the Gabonese where the policies of those who seek office would clearly begin to reverse the entrenched patronage and corrupt establishment to deploy Gabonese resources to the general welfare and emancipation of the people.

The last thing Gabon needs is the son of this dying despot who happens to be the defence minister assuming power, unchallenged and without his father’s tenure having been scrutinised for its successes and failings.

Meanwhile, if Mr. Omar Bongo is dead, it is time to bury him and everything he represented that kept the people of Gabon from fully pursuing their happiness and freedom, if he is still being propped up, somebody should pull the plug and well, if he is still “alive and well”, he should return to the country and start to make amends for the failures highlighted.

But the most important message in all this stretched out dying throes is Mr. Bongo, your time is up, if not on earth, at least as the President of Gabon.


[1] BBC NEWS | Africa | Profile: Omar Bongo

[2] BBC NEWS | Africa | Gabon leader Bongo's death denied

[3] CIA - The World Factbook - Gabon

[4] FACTBOX: Africa's longest-serving leaders | Reuters

[5] CIA - The World Factbook – The links on the countries mentioned are to the CIA – The World Factbook and acknowledged as such.

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