The Crimes of Bongo Pt III
Apartheid & Terror in Africa's Gardens of Eden
By Keith Harmon Snow
Keith Harmon Snow is the 2009 Regent's Lecturer in Law & Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, recognized for over a decade of work, outside of academia, contesting official narratives on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide while also working as a genocide investigator for the United Nations and other bodies. He is also a past and present (2009) Project Censored award winner.
...Continued from last week
DIALING FOR DICTATORS
For some forty-one years the Elf-ish Albert-Bernard Bongo ruled Gabon. Was Bongo the international humanitarian and peacemaker that the propaganda system has universally portrayed him as? Why do so many people know so little about the realities of life and death in Gabon?
In his widely lauded 2004 book, A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa, Howard W. French, the former New York Times bureau Chief for Africa from circa 1993-1998, had only this to say of Gabon: “It has long been said that even tinier, oil-rich Gabon next door [to Congo-Brazzaville] was the world’s leader in per capita champagne consumption.” 45
However, back in 1995, Howard W. French reported that Bongo and friends patronized lavish prostitution scandals run by Europeans; one Italian fashion designer who ended up in a French court admitted to personally furnishing Bongo with French call-girls charging $15,000 a visit in exchange for $600,000 tailoring contracts.46 French also reported: “the French engineered a partly successful boycott of an international investors conference in Gabon this year because it was organized by an ex-American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen.”
What the New York Times forgot to add was that Herman Cohen, who worked in the George H.W. Bush administration, was a lobbyist whose firm Cohen & Woods (C&W) was paid $300,000 to present Gabon as a “politically stable and economically successful country” and to “generate awareness of President Bongo and his national and international accomplishments,” including the “very concrete process of democratization and democratic reforms.” 47
C&W also whitewashed the crimes of another blood-drenched client near Gabon, the government of Eduardo Dos Santos in diamond and oil-studded Angola. While C&W were peddling influence for Bongo and Dos Santos, the U.S. State Department was flagging human right in Gabon for extra-judicial killings, torture, corruption and election rigging; Angola was far more grim.48 It was the tip of the iceberg on the brutal dictatorships and plunder of the oily Gulf of Guinea.
It was Herman Cohen and James Woods that convinced African countries to participate in the Pentagon’s ACRF, the precursor to the current Africa Contingency Operations Training Program (ACOTA), two programs training killers under a ‘peacekeeping’ smokescreen: Gabon has participated in both. C&W were also pimping for Military Professional Resources Inc., the private military company out of Virginia; MPRI and LOGICON, another Pentagon contractor, advanced the ACRF/ACOTA cause, and benefited from it.49 One of the primary architects of ACRF was Susan Rice, Barrack Obama’s foreign policy adviser and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. since January 2009.50
Access to printed matter under African dictatorships is limited: government controlled newspapers are supplemented with pornography, sports and travel trash, titillating tabloids and beauty rags peddling Western decadence and white supremacy; everything is saturated with corporate advertising.
Over the past two decades the Bongo regime has been publicly whitewashed by public relations agencies connected to power in Europe, Japan and to both political parities in the USA. These included Cohen & Woods, Cassidy Associates, Powell Tate, and Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand in the USA, and UK-based Shandwick Public Affairs.51 French PR firms like Publicis and Saatchi & Saatchi have sanitized the French language markets. Cassidy & Associates spent between $20-30 million lobbying Congress between 1998 and 2009. In 2000 and 2001, Gabon also hired the public relations firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.
Access to printed matter under African dictatorships is limited: government controlled newspapers are supplemented with pornography, sports and travel trash,titillating tabloids and beauty rags peddling Western decadence and white supremacy; everything is saturated with corporate advertising. Photo-Keith Harmon Snow, Libreville, Gabon, 1997.
The son of Jacques Foccart’s affiliate Mahmoud Bourgi, French lawyer Robert Bourgi is considered Foccart’s francafrique successor. As an example of media censorship and postcolonial control, his brother Albert Bourgi is the editor of Jeune Afrique, Francophone Africa’s popular news publication coming out of Paris since 1964, but a disinformation front billed as the ‘number one Pan-African magazine’. Robert Bourgi was one of former President Joseph Mobutu’s most intimate security advisers and an intimate adviser and lawyer to Omar Bongo.52 On September 27, 2007 at the Palais de l’Elysée, French President Nicolas Sarkozy honored Robert Bourgi with the Medal of the Knight's Insignia in the National Order of the Legion of the French Republic; Bongo’s daughter was also in attendance.53 According to Robert Bourgi, Omar Bongo had President Sarkozy’s overseas-aid minister Jean-Marie Bockel removed due to a ‘bold’ speech denouncing patronage and corruption.54
Gabon also maintained a three-year-old relationship with Jacqueline Wilson, the ex-spouse of senior U.S. diplomat and Gabon Ambassador Joe Wilson, who received tens of thousands of dollars for special projects and reports to President Omar Bongo’s daughter, Pascaline Mferri Bongo.
In another well-publicized case, lobbyist Jack Abramoff was the supposed mover-and-shaker behind the 2003 meeting between Bongo and George W. Bush—a meeting where President Bongo pledged support for the Pentagon’s “war on terror” and signed an “open skies agreement” between the two countries. Abramoff, who was also a Washington lobbyist for President Joseph Mobutu in Zaire (DRC), sought $9 million for his services for the Maryland public relations firm GrassRoots Interactive.55 Abramoff also reportedly worked with Bongo through David Safavian, a former business partner, former White House budget official and a registered agent in Washington for President Bongo, and also through another of Bongo’s paid influence peddlers in Washington named Joe Slavik, a mysterious insider who is apparently also very close to Bongo’s eldest daughter, Pascaline Bongo who also served as her father’s principal secretary, and is reportedly a director for several large French firms operating in Gabon, including Total Gabon.56 President Omar Bongo left the White House and later attended a lavish dinner organized by the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the public relations wing of the world’s most negligent and destructive corporations in Africa, as everywhere; later still he showed up in Houston as a guest at the Baker Institute. The CCA chairman at the time was diamond magnate and Democratic Party financier Maurice Tempelsman, the United States’ equivalent of France’s ‘dirty tricks’ operative Jacques Foccart.
Tempelsman’s role in interventions in Africa and his networks of organized crime involved in diamonds and cobalt are legendary, but wholly hidden by the bling bling of the propaganda system. One of Tempelsman’s stellar roles was serving as a broker for the Oppenheimer and De Beers diamond cartel—another friend of the Bongo regime. Given the blood diamond wealth in the nearby countries—Angola, Namibia, the two Congos—there is no chance De Beers would overlook Gabon.
Years of prospecting in Gabon by the De Beers cartel led to the development of a cartographic minerals database based on 13,513 sq. kms of terrestrial surveys and 36,580 km of airborne magnetic surveys. One company affiliated with De Beers in Gabon is the Canada-based SearchGold Corporation, which is licensed to exploit 7,865 sq. kms of concession in partnership with the U.K. company Zambezi Gold and its Luxembourg subsidiary Arc Mining and Investment.57 Also mining Gabon is Cluff Mining, a shareholder in Banro Mining Corporation—the Canadian powerhouse that is plundering and depopulating eastern Congo; Anglo-American Corp., the Oppenheimer/DeBeers conglomerate, is a majority shareholder in Cluff.
“Gabon was the only one of France's former African colonies to vote to become a French department, or administrative district, on the eve of independence in 1960, a request that President Charles de Gaulle turned down,” Howard W. French wrote. “Since independence, however, as the extent of the Gabon's oil, forest and mineral wealth has become known, France has fought ferociously to keep the influence of other Western powers in the country to a minimum.” 58
Seven French soldiers died recently when a French army AS 532 Cougar helicopter crashed into the sea off Gabon during joint military exercises.59 While the propaganda system is always advertising withdrawals of French troops from bases in Africa, the French contingents in Gabon will certainly remain. 60
To be continued
45 Howard W. French, A Continent for the Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa, Knopf, 2004: p. 72.
46 Howard W. French, “Prostitution Trial Upsets France-Gabon Ties,” New York Times, April 23, 1995.
47 Ken Silverstein, “Good Press for Dictators,” The American Prospect, April 8, 2001.
48 Ken Silverstein, “Good Press for Dictators,” The American Prospect, April 8, 2001.
49 Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellon Books, 1999, p. 251-253.
50 Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellon Books, 1999, p. 356-358.
51 Silverstein reported that in 2001 the U.K. firm bought out Powell Tate and Cassidy & Associates. Ken Silverstein, “Good Press for Dictators,” The American Prospect, April 8, 2001.
52 “They Came to Bury Him Not to Praise Him,” The Economist, June 18, 2009; http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13875618&fsrc=rss
53 “Robert Bourgi, l'héritier des secrets de la Françafrique,” Le Monde, March 26, 2009.
54 “They Came to Bury Him Not to Praise Him,” The Economist, June 18, 2009; http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13875618&fsrc=rss
55 Philip Shenon, Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting,” New York Times, November 10, 2005.
56 Philip Shenon, Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting,” New York Times, November 10, 2005.
57 “Searchgold options two Au properties in Gabon,” Searchgold News Release, September 5, 2007; http://www.infomine.com/index/pr/Pa535985.PDF
58 Howard W. French, “Prostitution Trial Upsets France-Gabon Ties,” New York Times, April 23, 1995.
59 Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 1, January 1-31, 2009, p. 17839.
60 Africa Research Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 3, March 2008, p. 17479.
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