One of Africa’s wealthiest ruling dynasties is tearing itself apart over the fortune left by the late dictator Omar Bongo of Gabon.
But as the first family takes its inheritance battle public, and instability reigns at the summit of power, the epic scale of the Bongo clan’s institutionalized pillaging of public resources in the former French colony is being revealed in grotesque detail.
At the same time, the shady system of informal political and commercial networks of patronage, graft and corruption privileging French multi-national companies and politicians, a system known as Françafrique has been exposed.
The revelations are an indictment of a corrupt regime that reflects shamefully on both the former colonial master France, and the unabashedly high-living governing family that has treated the national treasury like its own private bank account.
Omar Bongo ruled the central African nation, now the continent’s fourth-largest oil producer, for 41 years until his death in 2009.
He fathered 53 children, but designated two leading heirs – his ‘treasured daughter’ and former top aide, notorious private jet frequent flier Pascaline Bongo, and son and current President, the luxury-car loving Ali Bongo.
The quarrel among the heirs is in a country riven by extreme wealth disparities, with one third of the population of 1.6 million living below the poverty line.
Originally published on QUARTZ