Just as we’d hoped, The Economist decided to memorialize the late Gabonese president Omar Bongo in its current issue. And as befits an old-school strongman who appeared to care not a whit for his people’s welfare, the obituary is fairly damning—though, granted, not as gloves-off as the magazine’s posthumous takedown of Prabhakaran. The choicest bit, which follows a sentence mentioning that Bongo—president of a nation where 70 percent of the population lives in poverty—had upwards of $130 million stashed in Citibank accounts:
The suggestion of fiddling public finances flummoxed and infuriated him. Corruption, he once explained to a reporter, was not an African word. No more was nepotism: he simply looked after his family, supplying them with villas in Nice as well as the ministries of defence and foreign affairs. When French judges in 2009 froze nine of his 70 bank accounts, he was outraged. An attack on him was obviously an attempt to destabilise his country. He was equally indignant when in 2004, after a “Miss Humanity” pageant was held in Libreville, Miss Peru charged him with sexual harassment for summoning her to the palace and, he hoped, to his nifty behind-the-panelling bed. If something was in Gabon, by nature or chance, he évidemment had first dibs on it.
A contemporary account of the Miss Peru drama can be read here. The whole “Miss Humanity” pageant appears to have been a ruse.