Gabonese president Ali Bongo is seeking a second term of office in elections due in August in the former French colony, where the economy is bled by rampant corruption, a legacy of his father Omar, for decades a key French ally in Africa. But the legitimacy of Ali Bongo’s rise to power in 2009, and his bid for reelection, is thrown into doubt over suspicion that his birth certificate is a fake, and that he is in fact an adopted Nigerian, for the constitution of Gabon prohibits naturalized citizens from running for the presidency. Mediapart has gained access to a document showing the French presidency has stepped into the controversy to announce the certificate is “authentic”, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Fabrice Arfi reports.
A villa on the Côte d'Azur as well as a mansion in Paris were seized as part of a French judicial probe into finances of late president of Gabon.
Probe is into claims that president Ali Bongo’s chief of staff took a bribe to help secure a contract from a French firm.
The conversations of two African heads of state have been eavesdropped by French police during a major investigation into alleged corruption by a French businessman. The transcripts of the phone-tapped conversations involving Mali's president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, known as IBK, and Gabon's Ali Bongo reveal a vast system of gifts and favours apparently provided by controversial Corsican businessman Michel Tomi, who has been dubbed the “godfather to the godfathers”. As far as the judges investigating the case are concerned, the phone taps reveal corruption. And for French president François Hollande the content of the transcripts involving IBK will come as a devastating and embarrassing diplomatic blow. For much of Hollande's African policy has been based on the symbolic success of his old socialist friend IBK, who was voted in as president of Mali just months after Paris sent in troops to end an Islamic insurgency there. IBK's election was supposed to usher in a fresh start for Mali and a new era of French diplomacy in Africa. That narrative now looks to be in ruins. Fabrice Arfi, Ellen Salvi, Lénaïg Bredoux and Thomas Cantaloube report.
Mediapart has gained access to confidential documents that reveal how a handful of Gabon’s ruling Bongo clan, and Gabonese President Ali Bongo in particular, prey on almost every sector of the country’s economy via a holding company called Delta Synergie. The company, established under the late dictator Omar Bongo, has stakes in the insurance, banking and property sectors, the agroalimentary and construction industries, agriculture and raw materials, gas and oil production, wood processing, business aviation, the transport and medical sectors, and the security business. The scandal comes on top of revelations of the vast wealth, including offshore bank accounts, that Ali Bongo and his sister Pascaline have inherited from their father, and while the West African country, where a third of the population live in poverty, is gripped by a wave of strikes and protests over poor living standards. Fabrice Arfi reports.
In 2010, a French judicial investigation was opened into evidence that several African leaders and their families hold vast assets in France gained from embezzlement of the public funds of their countries. Among those targeted by the investigation, which was triggered by anti-corruption NGOs, is Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, head of what the World Bank classifies as one of the world’s ‘Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries’, where a quarter of children aged under five suffer from malnutrition. Mediapart has learnt of the details of a police raid on a luxury property close to Paris belonging to Nguesso’s nephew Edgard, where they found vast sums of cash, jewellery and watches and evidence that the multi-million-euro apartment is funded by an offshore company whose accounts are fed by the Congolese treasury. Fabrice Arfi reports.
The Central African Republic (CAR), where French troops are engaged in attempting to restore order amid inter-religious violence and which has long been the scene of political chaos, is governed more by its influential neighbouring states than any true national leadership, writes Mediapart international affairs correspondent Thomas Cantaloube. In this analysis of a complex and seemingly blocked situation for the country’s future, he concludes that the French military intervention is unlikely to remove - and more likely to maintain - the fundamental reasons for the turmoil in CAR.