His father ruled Gabon, an oil and timber rich nation of 1.4 million, for 42 years. The elder Bongo passed away this year and was succeeded by his son Ali Ben after a disputed election. Nobody really expected things to turn out otherwise.
That said, one hopes that Ali Ben will feel the need to make things a bit better for the hundreds of thousands of Gabonese who continue to be shut out of the wealth from oil and timber. Gabon is Africa’s fourth largest oil producer and its second largest timber producer. During Omar Bongo’s 42 year presidency most of this money ended up in private bank accounts – the late president was the subject of an investigation involving Citibank, where he held millions of dollars in a private account.
I don’t have much on the younger Bongo. He seems like a non-starter. If we are to believe the BBC the only notable thing he said after being sworn in as president yesterday was that he wants renewal within the Gabonese elite. May be by this he means more social mobility. The VOA quoted him to have said that he plans to end corruption and injustice – one wonders where he was during his father’s failed 42-year presidency (apologies, the WSWS was the only place I could find a history of the guy). I would have wanted to hear him say something about oil and timber and redistribution of Gabon’s national wealth. I mean, how hard can it be to run a nation of 1.4 million? With all that oil wealth Gabon could give Botswana a run for its money.
Ali Ben owes Gabon a lot. His father stole from the country. He now has a chance to make up for it by putting the nation on the path to decency. This is not too much to ask, is it?