The Crimes of Bongo Part V
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
THE KING OF BLING
Bongo was connected to the Corsican mafia through the French ministers and shady businessmen, including Michel Tomi and son Jean-Baptiste, and Robert Feliciaggi (assassinated in a professional hit in Corsica, March 10, 2006), his son Jean-Jerome and brother Charles. Alleged to run French money-laundering schemes through casinos, lotteries and betting shops in Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon, Jean-Jerome is close to Sassou-Nguesso, and Charles’ business supplies the Presidential Guard of diamond and petroleum magnate Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in Angola; the brothers held the second biggest bank accounts —after Elf-Aquitaine—at France’s now defunct FIBA bank, the conduit for Gabon and Angola’s plundered oil wealth.82
Gabon’s wealth was also siphoned off through the BGFI Bank, Gabon’s biggest investment bank. Created in Libreville in April 1971, the Bank was born out of a partnership between private Gabonese investors and the Banque de Paris, under the name “Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas Gabon.” In view of the majority share of capital held by private Gabonese, the Bank took the name of Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale (BGFI) in April 1996. To reap the plunder of nearby dictatorships, BGFI opened major branches in Equatorial Guinea (2001) and Congo-Brazzaville (2004). BGFI directors include Jean Ping (once married to Bongo’s daughter) and Christian Bongo; director Yves Abouab is also an executive with the Banque Belgolaise in Paris. Christian Bongo is also a director of the Banque Gabonaise de Development.
Jean Ping is one of the most powerful members of Bongo’s clan des Gabonaise, and an unapologetic agent for western capitalism’s enterprise of plunder and depopulation in Africa. Ping has played a pivotal role, for example, in furthering the ‘new humanitarian’ [read: same old imperialist] policy doctrine of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’.
Corsican Michel Tomi operates through Groupe Kabi in Gabon, involved in private airlines, communications and gaming, and winning lucrative construction contracts from the Bongo government.83 An adviser to Omar Bongo in the 1990’s, Corsican Andre Tarallo was boss of Elf-Corsica from 1987-1988, and he funded the anti-Marxist guerrilla movement FLEC in neighboring Angola in the 1980’s.84 Tarallo managed Elf’s Africa interests for more than 30 years, and he ended up in a French jail (2004) over the Elf petroleum bribery scandals, where he testified about payoffs to Bongo, Sassou-Nguesso and Teodoro Obiang Nguema.85,86 Another member of the ‘Clan Corsican’ at Bongo’s disposal was former French Minister Charles Pasqua, one of Jacques Chirac’s former aides, described as a mafia godfather. 87
Omar Bongo, Charles Pasqua, Jean-Christophe Mitterand and other officials were involved in Angolagate, the French arms-for-oil scandal involving shady arms merchants, oil executives, intelligence operatives and others in France and Africa. In 1999, the U.S Congress flagged Bongo’s huge accounts at Citibank in a money-laundering probe.88 Omar Bongo and friends have also bankrolled French politicians: Former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing accused former President Chirac of receiving party financing from Omar Bongo in a 1981 campaign.89
Gabon received $850,000 dollars in foreign military financing from the Pentagon from 2005 to 2008, with $1,597,000 in International Military Education & Training funds from 2001-2007, and with 192 Gabonese military trained in the US IMET program from 1950-2007; ninety of these Gabonese soldiers were trained in the U.S. between 2000 and 2007. 90,91
The elite ELF-Gabon headquarters along the ocean in Libreville. Photo: keith harmon snow, Libreville, Gabon, 1997.
Through the Pentagon’s Gulf of Guinea Initiative, Gabon is involved with the US Navy’s Maritime Partnership Program and the Africa Partnership Station, programs that militarize the Gulf of Guinea to assure and secure U.S. control of oil infrastructure, shipping lanes, offshore sea-bed mining, illegal fishing, toxic dumping and other corporate piracy. Gabon also provides the Pentagon with air naval base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs). All of these programs are conduits for U.S. covert operations and facilitate the involvement of private military companies and transnational corporations in resource plunder and depopulation. 92
THE CALCULATED IMPOSITION OF IGNORANCE
Gamba town is the urban centre of the wild Gamba Protected Area Complex, an enclave of white, gated western privilege surrounded by dense forests, impenetrable swamps and deep estuaries where you might see an elephant swimming across open water or ambling across a grassy field. This is Shell country in Gabon, and the only way in is on an expensive Air Gabon flight.
“If I have to describe Gamba to someone,” confided one French expatriate in “Shell’s Best Kept Secret,” a blurb in a Royal/Dutch Shell public relations brochure, “I always say it is a Club-Med in the middle of the jungle. You have the freedom and opportunity to do things you thought you’d only ever dream of and all with an amazing backdrop of jungle and unspoilt beaches and lots of wildlife right on your doorstep! … We are quite a sporty bunch in Gamba. We have our own 18 hole golf course, there is the Yenzi Boat club a sailing club, tennis, football, tae-kwon-do, yoga, fitness, swimming, aerobics & step classes, volleyball, badminton, squash, hockey, rugby and much, much more...not to mention that every so often you can take part in our triathlon!” 93
In October 2004, paramilitary police in Gamba killed two locals who protested against Shell’s injustices. A survey of local attitudes revealed a climate of fear seething beneath the surface. Locals reported routine oil spills where Shell and contractors Halliburton and Schlumberger have for years and years burned off oil spills as a form of remediation. 94
With a certain arrogance that comes with white society beliefs about entitlement, French expatriates have considered Gabon their private property since the colonial era, and Gamba is one of their hideaway playgrounds.95 One French expatriate in Gamba, Louis Rigon, runs a high-end sport fishing and ‘ecotourism’ business, with private luxury camps and powerboats in the bush. 96 He also provides a logistic base for oil exploration when companies like Transworld Exploration Gabon—a Houston Texas oil company—arrive in Gamba (2006) for seismic testing in Loango National Park. It is families with names like Louis Rigon and Pierre Goods—a Transworld director based in Port-Nice, Gabon—who float their 4-WD safari land rovers from Sette Cama, across the estuary on a barge, off-load in Loango National Park, and casually joy-ride some 50 kilometers down the pristine beach—as they did when I was there. This is their version of ‘ecotourism’—another buzzword and the cutting edge of the white, western, corporate invasion of wilderness.
Oil exploration in the Loango wilderness was not the only reality I found incongruent with the slick propaganda about “Saving Africa’s Eden.” The western diamond firm Southern Era was prospecting in the newly designated Lope Reserve—J. Michael Fay’s newly ‘discovered’ Eden in northeastern Gabon—and all the BINGO conservation groups involved in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership knew this. None had said a word.
Royal/Dutch Shell controls the Rabi oil fields of the Gamba Complex but local Gabonese who live in and around the concessions have received zero benefits from decades of oil exploitation and export.Photo: keith harmon snow, Sette Cama, Gabon, December 2004.
Southern Era began prospecting in Gabon in 1999 and when the CBFP came along—and Bongo created the new parks—they were issued permits for the Lope region from the Bongo regime. Southern Era is a fully owned subsidiary of Mwana Africa—another secretive mining company involved in the blood-drenched mining operations in eastern Congo (also Angola and Botswana’s blood diamond areas)—connected to the U.S., U.K. and South Africa. 97
Tracking elephants in the Loango reserve turned up the remains of a research camp in the savannah. My local guide and WWF-paid ranger Robert (not his real name) took me to the place where the Smithsonian Institute set up a massive animal and plant collection operation; teams of researchers descended on the Loango wilderness and began catching, counting, cataloging, categorizing, and collecting species and genetic material. Claiming a universal benefit to all humanity—and to the people of Gabon, of course—the Smithsonian’s Gabon Biodiversity Monitoring and Research Program involves U.S. universities and scores of western researchers and tens of millions of dollars in funds; it is also backed by Shell Oil Corporation.98 These funds cycle to and from western economies bringing little benefit to Gabonese people like Robert, and nothing of benefit to the average Gabonese citizen. Smithsonian scientists reported that they have ‘recorded’ over 2019 species of trees and thousands of species of birds, reptiles, snakes and amphibians, but they didn’t merely ‘record’ these species, they collected them.99 “Voucher specimens were injected with formaline (5%), then preserved in 70% ethanol, and will be housed in several scientific institutions.” 100
“They paid us 6000 CFA (US $12) per day to collect birds, snakes, lizards,” says Robert, “They killed them and packed them up in jars and boxes. We worked hard, setting traps and checking nets, all day and night sometimes. It wasn’t much money.”
Robert was hired because he knew how to catch birds, where to hang nets, where bat species might be found, the habitat of rare snakes—you know, simple stuff, like where a rodent will hide—but based on years of painstaking study and intimate knowledge of the local environment for which Robert has dedicated his heart and soul all his life. Robert didn’t know anything about genetic engineering, cloning, or intellectual property rights, and that’s why it was easy for the Smithsonian to come in to Gabon and steal Robert’s intellectual property and pay him approximately one dollar and fifteen cents (sic) an hour.
Biodiversity in the Gamba Complex Protected Area is of value to corporations for pharmaceutical products, unethical genetic engineering, and huge inequitable, white economy ‘research’ programs predicated on Empire and support for the military-industrial complex, but operating both obliviously and knowingly under false presumptions, innocence, humanitarianism, science and progress.
Robert was hired as a grunt for an exclusive western program that offers the perfect example how white supremacy operates in Africa: lucrative contracts, travel perks, capital equipment budgets, romantic interludes in paradise for whites; hard labor, theft of expertise, downward mobility, obtuse explanations for blacks. It’s all about access. People like Robert will always be collecting dead birds, while someone else will be flying in and out of Gabon, presenting papers at conferences, getting PhDs, ostensibly saving the earth, murdering wilderness as fast as they are murdering the truth.
Biodiversity in the Gamba Complex Protected Area is of value to corporations for pharmaceutical products, unethical genetic engineering, and huge inequitable, white economy 'research' programs predicated on Empire and support for the military-industrial complex, but operating both obliviously and knowingly under false presumptions, innocence, humanitarianism, science and progress. Photo: keith harmon snow, Loango National Park, gabon, December 2004.
“Under Bongo life is hard,” Robert told me. “Many people are malnourished, many people are poor. There is no work. It’s terrible.”
The Smithsonian proceeded with the support of President Omar Bongo, the Pentagon, U.S. State Department, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and other predatory agencies. Massive physical, economic and intellectual (property) thefts are underway, and it occurs on the backs of eager, willing, hopeful, yet unfreedomed Africans. 101
To be continued
82 “France/Africa: Professional Risks,” Africa Confidential, Vol. 47. No. 6, March 3, 2006.
83 See: http://www.ag-partners.com/en/news-detail.php?id_art=63.
84 Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, FLEC.
85 “President Bongo Loses Court Case Against Ex-Official at Oil Group Elf,” African Oil Journal, December 26, 2007, http://www.africanoiljournal.com/12-26-2007_president_bongo.htm; and Toby Shelley, Oil: Politics, Poverty & the Planet, Zed Books, 2005.
86 Sophie Coignard & Marie-Théres Guichard, French Connections: Networks of Influence, Algora, 2000.
87 “France/Africa: Professional Risks,” Africa Confidential, Vol 47. No. 6, March 3, 2006.
88 Ken Silverstein, “Good Press for Dictators,” The American Prospect, April 8, 2001.
89 “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
90 Historical Facts Book, U.S. Department of Defense, December 30, 2007.
91 Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellon Books, 1999, p. 251-253.
92 Wayne Madsen, “AFRICOM: The Recolonization of Africa by Uncle Sam,” Wayne Madsen Report, January 3, 2008; see also Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellon Books, 1999, p. 251-253.
93 Jet Hoeve and Sue Garrone, “Shell’s Best Kept Secret,” Destinations, a Royal/Dutch Shell public relations expatriate magazine, Issue 39, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2006, p. 8: http://www.outpostthehague.com/destinprotect/pdfissues/destinations39/Destinations_39_01.pdf; see also Yenzi Boat Club, www.yenziboatclub.com .
94 Private interviews, Gamba Complex, December 2004.
95 See: “Les Anciens de Gamba,” http://www.gamba-gabon.com/#/adresses/3096600.
96 Rigon also operates in Madagascar and Senegal. See: http://www.pacvoyages.fr/index.swf and http://www.halieutours.com.monsite.wanadoo.fr/page5.html .
97 keith harmon snow, Merchant’s of Death: Exposing Corporate Financed Holocaust in Africa, September 2008,; see also: http://www.southernera.com/ and http://www.mwanaafrica.com/ .
98 See: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MAB/documents/GabonBriefingPaper6.pdf . See also: Shell’s slick corporate website: www.shellfoundation.org .
99 Gabon Biodiversity Program, Publication No. 20, February 2003, http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MAB/documents/GabonBriefingPaper6.pdf.
100 Gabon Biodiversity Program, Publication No. 20, February 2003, http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MAB/documents/GabonBriefingPaper6.pdf.
101 Nobel economist Amartya Sen describes “unfreedoms” in his book Development as Freedom (Sen, 1999).
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