The Crimes of Bongo Part IV

Published on 14th August 2009

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




While France was consolidating its control over Gabon it was also arming neighboring regimes: Omar Bongo was their African kingpin.


Under the cover of ‘humanitarian’ flights, the Bongo government shipped weapons from Libreville to the Biafran war in Nigeria 1967-1970, and Bongo imported Biafran rebels connected to secessionist leader Emeka Ojukwu to luxurious lives in Gabon. France also supported the Biafra struggle, where a U.S./NATO/U.S.S.R. blockade led to some 500,000 to 2,000,000 deaths from starvation, disease and war. Shell-British Petroleum and the French state company Société Anonyme Française des Recherches et d’Exploitation de Pétrole (SAFRAP; now Elf Petroleum Nigeria Ltd.), were centrally involved in the bloodshed and exploitation.61


From 1970-1975 France provided over 300 Panhard armored cars to Mobutu in Zaire: this is a footnote in the long history of French arms transfers to dictatorships that served their interests in Africa.62 President Richard M. Nixon met with Bongo on August 2, 1973. At the time, the SDECE (Service de Documentation Exterieure et Contre-Espionage) and CIA were collaborating against the MPLA (Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola government in Angola by training and arming UNITA and FNLA guerrillas.63 Elf Acquitaine backed both the MPLA government and UNITA rebels: Bongo was certainly involved.64 In 1975, the SDECE hired the infamous Congo mercenary Bob Denard and twenty French mercenaries, all paid by the CIA station out of Zaire —Maurice Tempelsman’s gang Lawrence Devlin, Mark Garsin and others—for covert operations in Angola; the SDECE and CIA also worked with Bureau of State Security (BOSS) agents out of South Africa at the height of the Apartheid struggle.65 Omar Bongo was clearly aware of Washington’s covert terrorist operations in support of UNITA from the 1970’s to 1990’s. Bongo’s government allowed individuals in Gabon to back UNITA rebels in the brutal civil war in Angola, and in 1990’s Gabon was caught red-handed violating United Nations sanctions against UNITA.66


Ian Smith, former white supremacist leader of Rhodesia, at his home in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo Keith Harnon Snow, Harare, Zimbabwe, May 2000

When Ian Smith’s white supremacist government needed support against the imperialist forces seeking to put a black face on power in Rhodesia, it was Omar Bongo who helped Smith bust the international sanctions by routing through Libreville aircraft ferrying contraband to and from Rhodesia and Europe; networks of organized crime worked through Switzerland and Lichtenstein, and Bongo’s officials in Gabon issued false certificates of origin and other fabricated documentation, while also taking their cut in profits.67

Bongo also maintained relations with Harvard University’s Liberian warlord Charles Taylor; Bongo was known to receive Taylor at his presidential mansion and certainly benefited from the blood diamond cartels Taylor was involved with.68,69


The Bongo government was complicit with the successive Nguema dictatorships (1968-1979, 1979-present) and their campaigns of terror and depopulation in Equatorial Guinea (E.G.). Under Bongo’s rule, Gabon violated the territorial sovereignty of E.G. through military occupation of southern E.G. islands and military incursions in the southwest near Rio Muni, all in search of oil and profits.70


Before his ascendancy to President by coup d’etat in 1979, Teodoro Obiang Nguema personally ran the notorious Black Beach prison in E.G.: his regime is today considered one of the most corrupt, ethnocentric, oppressive and undemocratic states in the world. U.S. corporate backing of the Obiang regime involved corruption and profiteering that was exposed in the U.S. Rigg’s bank investigations in 2004. U.S. companies—Exxon-Mobil, Amerada Hess, Chevron-Texaco, Marathon Oil and others—paid for scholarships for children of the country's leaders to attend elite schools like Pepperdine University (CA), formed business ventures with government officials, hired companies linked to Obiang and rented property from government officials and their relatives.71 Petroleum-connected U.S. officials like Condoleeza Rice have called Obiang a ‘good friend’ of the U.S., while Obiang has for years paid Cassidy & Associates some $120,000 a month to whitewash the regime. While the arrogance of oil wealth caused a small rift between the two dictators, Bongo’s importance to E.G. can be measured by Nguema’s decree of three days of national mourning after Bongo’s death.


Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema attends the funeral of Gabonese President Omar Bongo, on June 16, 2009 in Libreville, Gabon. Agence France Presse/Getty Images

Albert-Bernard Bongo is the son-in-law of Dennis Sassou-Nguesso, another dictator who has reigned for two decades, with a gap from1992-1997, sustained with millions of Elf petrol dollars: Sassou-Nguesso’s elite Cobra militia were also trained by French advisers and, like Mobutu, Sassou-Nguesso relied on Israeli security and intelligence for protection. Omar Bongo backed bloodshed in the recent Congo-Brazzaville war (1997-2000) by offloading planeloads of weapons and shipping them across the border to Sassou Nguesso’s home village of Oyo.72 Bongo’s government was also accused of airlifting Rwandan and Moroccan mercenaries into Congo-Brazzaville, even as Bongo was preparing to lead negotiations between Sassou-Nguesso and Congo-Brazzaville’s more openly U.S.-backed President Pascal Lissouba, and after a ceasefire had been declared in July 1997.73 All sides were involved in ethnic cleansing. The French military, the Elysée Palace and Elf Aquitaine all actively supported Sassou-Nguesso, who fought his way back to power on October 25, 1997 with the assistance of Chadian troops backed by French logistical support.74


After France, Bongo maintained his closest alliance with Joseph Mobutu’s CIA client state in Zaire.


On the morning of March 3, 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter had a conversation with French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Later in the afternoon President Carter met with Omar Bongo; also in attendance were Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, Secretary of State, and Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Robert Bongo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Gabonese Republic and nephew of President Bongo.75


In June 2002, Robert Bongo was appointed as a United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General in the DRC.76 Brzezinski is a high level adviser to the International Crises Group, a flak organization promoting peace through war in Sudan, Uganda and Congo, and was advising Barack Obama in 2008. As National Security Advisor under Carter, Brzezinski reportedly commissioned the March 17, 1978 document Presidential review Memorandum/NSC 46; entitled Black Africa and the U.S. Black Movement, the classified ‘Secret’ document advocated for clandestine U.S. support to (Apartheid) South Africa and called for a special covert U.S. program to “perpetuate divisions in the black movement; to neutralize the most active groups of leftist radical orientation and diminish their influence among blacks; and to stimulate dissension and hostility between organizations representing different social strata of the community…” 77


Less than 10 days after Bongo met with Carter the U.S. and Belgium shipped weapons to Shaba (Katanga), Zaire, and on March 16 Secretary of State Vance appeared before the U.S. Congress to justify the intervention as critical to protect the flow of Shaba’s copper from Zaire—but it was actually cobalt of the copperbelt veins, stockpiled by the Department of Defense and essential to the western permanent warfare enterprise—that the national security apparatus was concerned about.78 Bongo met with Carter again on October 17, 1977.


“For 20 years President Bongo has led his country in an era of stability and progress,” said President Ronald Reagan during an October 2, 1987 meeting with Bongo in Washington. “Under his leadership, Gabon has consistently encouraged the peaceful settlement of regional disputes, siding with reason, dialogue, and moderation over bloodshed, war, and terror.”


Reagan pledged to increase U.S. investment in Gabon—and it happened—and Gabon’s financial programs were subsequently restructured in keeping with western ‘shock doctrine’ economics of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) arranged with and for Bongo’s elite clique. The U.S. media called the deal ‘U.S. Aid to Gabon.’ Meanwhile, SAPs shattered the social fabric and further ruined hundreds of millions of ordinary people’s lives from Gabon to Bolivia to South Korea.79


The strategic U.S. and corporate alliance with Bongo thrived under the successive Bush, Clinton, Bush regimes, always whitewashed by the western propaganda system.


Gabon provided military logistical support to the Laurent Kabila government during the second phase of war in DRC (1998), but later and/or simultaneously Bongo backed Jean-Pierre Bemba and his Movement for the Liberation of Congo. Bemba was another Mobutist warlord who was close to Congo-Brazzaville’s Dennis Sassou-Nguesso. Until his death, Bongo was sending $US 20,000 a month to Bemba’s legal fund, along with Sassou-Nguesso, Moamar Gadhafi and a fourth (unidentified) African President (for a total of $US 80,000 a month).”80


“Bongo even financed small politicians with no hope,” says one Congolese businessman, “he gave money to everyone, that’s how he maintained access. In DRC, for example, he even gave money to Alou Bonioma Kalokola—a lawyer who has lived his entire life as a hustler. Bonioma was married to [Dennis] Sassou-Nguesso’s step-daughter, and Sassou-Nguesso’s wife is from DRC. Alou knew he would get money from Bongo so he ran for president [in the 2006 elections].”81


To be continued



61Biafra-Nigeria, 1967-1969, Political Affairs, Confidential U.S. State Dept. files, ISBN -88692-756-0.


62 John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story, Replica Books, 1978: p. 176-192.


63 União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) and Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (FNLA).


64 Toby Shelley, Oil: Politics, Poverty & the Planet, Zed Books, 2005


65 John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story, Replica Books, 1978: p. 188.


66 See: Report of the Panel of Experts on Violations of Security Council Sanctions Against UNITA, UN Doc S2000/203, 10 March 2000. See also Yearbook of International Humanitarian  


67 James Mukuwire, “Omar Bongo Rescued Ian Smith,” Zimbabwe Times, June 11, 2009,, 2002.


68 Charles Taylor has the distinction of having attended Harvard University; being arrested in Boston (MA), for international warrants relating to embezzlement of funds in Liberia; being held in a Charlestown (MA) prison; and being ‘broken out’ with no trace or trail of his having been there.


69 See: keith harmon snow and Rick Hines, “Blood Diamond: Doublethink & Deception Over Those Worthless Little Rocks of Desire,” Z Magazine, June & July 2007.


70 Max Liniger-Gourmaz, Small is Not Always Beautiful: The Story of Equatorial Guinea, 1988.


71 Justin Blum, U.S. Firms Entwined in Equatorial Guinea Deals, Washington Post, September 7, 2004.


72 Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999, Mellen Press, 1999.


73 “Congo: Truce Broken,” Africa Research Bulletin, July 1-31, 1997, p.12760


74 See, e.g., Guy Robert, France’s African Policy in Transition: Disengagement and Redeployment, Paper prepared for presentation at the African Studies Interdisciplinary Seminar, Center for African Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Il, March 3, 2000.


75 Daily Diary of Jimmy Carter, March 3, 1977;


76 Decisions of the Seventy-Sixth Ordinary Session of the OAU Council of Ministers / Eleventh Ordinary Session of the AEC, 28 June to 6 July 2002, Durban, South Africa, CM/Dec. 661-670.


77  “US-Africa: Genuine Leak or Disinformation?” Africa Confidential, 1984.


78 Bernard Gwertzman, Vance Says Invaders in Zaire Threaten Vital Copper Mining; Calls Situation ‘Dangerous,’ New York Times,  March 17, 1977: p. 61.


79 “Reagan Promises to Boost U.S. Aid to Gabon,” Washington Post, August 2, 1978.


80 Personal communication, businessman, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2009.


81 Personal communication, businessman, Democratic Republic of Congo, June 2009.



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