Today, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend the funeral of Omar Bongo of Gabon, the world’s longest serving and shortest dictator. France and Sarko have a lost a dear friend. When Bongo came to power in 1967 at the ripe age of 32 with heavy French support:
“Mr. Bongo summarized how the two-track relationship with France worked: “Africa without France is like a car without a chauffeur,” he told French daily Libération in 1996. “France without Africa is like a car without gasoline.”
Mr. Bongo was the grease to France’s sugar poppa politics in Africa. But now, Sarko is weaker in Africa than before and he has to deal with the aftermath of Bongo’s passing, who at time of death was in the middle of a corruption case lodged by Transparency International in French Courts. Using political capital to protect their friends:
“In May, the head of Paris’s investigative magistrates, Françoise Desset, took up the case. The Paris prosecutor’s office appealed the decision on the grounds that Transparency International suffered no direct damage from the African regimes and therefore had no grounds to file its complaint.”
With huge investments in Gabon, a ridiculous court case and the loss of an African ally, Sarko is seems like a sugar poppa no more. From his overtly racist speech in Dakar to his to his absurd claim that new uranium extraction deals with the DRC would help the Congo on its path to peace, French President Nicolas Sarkozy seems more like a bumbling version of Tintin than the president of an post-colonial metropole. His call for a radical departure from previous Franco-Africa relations have been undermined by his economic wheeling and dealing. His political agenda in Africa has been weakly implemented and he has seen a francophonic country completely slip through his fingers as Rwanda adopts an anglophonic identity. His Africa project has all but collapsed.
Sarkozy’s new plan: buy a safari hat and cope.