Omar Bongo, the president of Gabon and Africa’s longest serving ruler has died. Mr. Bongo had intestinal cancer and had gone to Barcelona, Spain for treatment. He took over power in 1967.
The African state of 1.5 million has considerable oil reserves, timber and manganese deposits and enjoys a per capita income of a middle income country – at US $14,400 according to the CIA Factbook. But due to a high level of income inequality, hundreds of thousands of Gabonese still live in poverty. Gabon was ranked 116th on the 2007/2008 UNDP Human Development Report. Like most mineral-rich African countries, corruption is endemic in Gabon. For instance, earlier this year anti-corruption activists accused president Bongo of buying French property with proceeds from corruption.
According to the constitution of Gabon, the head of the country’s senate will be the interim president until elections are held within 90 days.
If you thought the election of Libya’s life President, Muamar Gaddafi, as president of the African Union was a joke wait till you hear who was elected chairman of COMESA, a regional trading block that comprises most of the nations on the east coast of Africa. Yes, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s strongman who ran his country’s economy aground has been elected chairman of COMESA! And as expected, this has generated some protest in the African blogosphere.
How do these guys pull off such stunts with a straight face?
The dysfunction within the UN system is common knowledge. I am a believable in UN causes such as humanitarian relief, peacekeeping and protection of the environment. However, when things get abstract or unenforceable, I am usually disappointed by the UN’s proclivity to shift to issuing statements and pronouncements that it cannot enforce or does not want to enforce.
Here is Bill Easterly’s take on the UN’s definition and pretension to enforce the observance of human rights.