Gabon on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Equatorial Guinea & Cameroon to its north, Republic of the Congo to its east and south. Its about 3 times the size of Ireland , population 1.6 Mil and at least 33% live in dire poverty. It was a French colony which gained political independence in 1960. But “the French went out of the front door and came back in through a side window”. Gabon had oil and France was determined to have it; they needed the “right president” and they had him in Omar Bongo who at 32 in 1967 was the world’s youngest president. To ensure his long term survival France placed several hundred troops in the capital, Libreville, with an underground tunnel to Omar’s palace. So effective was this in ensuring Omar’s continued presidency that he served 7 terms until 2009, 42 years.
In exchange for the “stability” the French provided Omar gave them almost exclusive rights to Gabon’s minerals especially its oil. Through an elaborate network of companies in Tax Havens many of France’s major companies and its political elites got access to a “slush fund” used to pay bribes inside the country and far afield: a small aside, when Sarkozy was elected President in 2007, the first foreign leader he called? none other than the bold Omar ! The scandal broke in France when the scorned mistress of a French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, went to prison when she could not account for 6.0 Mil she received from the oil company Elf Aquitaine (now part of Total). The mistress a Christine Deviers-Jancour was somewhat upset but became more and more upset during her prison term when her lover neglected to send her a message or even a single flower. She blew the whistle and you can get all the murky details of corruption in France at the highest levels in her book, “The Whore of the Republic”.