Omar Bongo; Little big man

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Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo with former French president Jacques Chirac at the French-African Summit in February, 2007. Bongo, Africa’s longest-serving president, died on Monday last week of a heart attack in a Spanish clinic. Picture: Reuters 

By Nicholas Shaxson

Posted  Monday, June 15   2009 at  00:00

Ministers received me exactly on time, and deferential secretaries had been expecting me.

It was bizarre, like surfing a wave.

In this land of fast cars, tropical spies, and gold trinkets, everyone I met was rich, and was grinning at me like Cheshire cats.

Mr Autogue clearly wanted to keep undesirables away; I did not mind much since I would have another week here after he left (when I did, the opposition parties treated me with suspicion; I felt that they suspected me of being a British agent).

But while Libreville seemed prosperous, it just seemed dull and expensive. I felt like Alice in an African Wonderland. What else might be down this rabbit hole?

Next week: Clan Gabonais, the network that controlled much of African as well as French politics

Reproduced with permission from Poisoned Wells: The dirty politics of African oil by Nicholas Shaxson, published in 2007 by Palgrave Macmillan.

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