Obama and a White House invite for dictator who has stolen billions from his impoverished African nation
Obama invite à la Maison Blanche un dictateur africain qui a volé des milliards de son pays appauvri
By Daniel Bates
Last updated at 11:17 PM on 9th June 2011
Barack Obama has come under fire for extending a formal invitation to a shamed African dictator who has ruthlessly plundered billions of dollars from his own country.
The U.S. President is today having a coveted private meeting with President Ali Bongo of Gabon in the Oval Office despite his appalling track record.
Bongo’s family has ruled the impoverished African nation with an iron fist for five decades and have used its oil riches to fund a life of outrageous luxury.
Meanwhile one third of people in Gabon live on less than $2 a day and thousands starve to death each year or are forced to pick through garbage to find food.
Critics have pointed out that Gabon, with a population of 1.5 million, is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
They claim that the only reason Mr Obama has agreed to the meeting is that he wants to curry favour with an ally to secure America’s fuel supplies - regardless of who it is.
The Bongo family’s abuse of Gabon is well-documented and dates back to 1967 when Omar Bongo, Ali’s father, took over.
Two years ago he died paving the way for Ali Bongo to continue the reign of corruption.
Investigations have revealed the Bongos have dozens of luxury homes in places like the French Riviera and a $120million 14-bedroom townhouse in Paris.
During one shopping spree in 2006 Ali Bongo’s then wife balked at the idea of moving into a property that cost a mere $25million.
‘I need something really big, really, really, really big,’ Inge said. ‘I would think for that amount of money, I would expect a bit more grandeur.
‘I've tried to downsize, but it's just not in my character’.
Jack Blum, a United Nations consultant and expert on offshore banking, told ABC News that the meeting with Mr Obama sends out the wrong message.
He said that over the years the Bongos had siphoned off a quarter of Gabon’s GDP which has made them ‘incredibly rich’.
‘There's absolutely no shame,’ Blum said of Bongo and his cronies.
‘I would say that the people who are running the country are guilty of grand theft nation’.
Senator Carl Levin, D-Michigan, added that: ‘Omar Bongo and now his son Ali Bongo have for more than 40 years run a regime in Gabon which diverts their country's wealth for their family's persona.
A Congressional report he wrote last year showed that ‘the Bongos misused U.S. financial institutions to carry out suspicious transactions involving millions of dollars.’
‘Omar Bongo and now his son Ali Bongo have for more than 40 years run a regime in Gabon which diverts their country's wealth for their family's personal use’
Senator Carl Levin
Speaking to ABC News White House press secretary Jay Carney admitted that Bongo has a ‘less than sterling’ record.
‘First of all, the president of Gabon is making reform efforts, which we support,’ he said.
‘Secondly ... Gabon has been an important partner in some of the issues that are very important to American national security.’
A spokesman for Bongo claimed that the president is a reformer, but could not explain how he built up such fantastic wealth.