Africa Well Rid of Thieves Like Gabon's Bongo
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2009 11:43 AM CDT
Spanish military personnel carry the coffin of Gabon's late president Omar Bongo onto a Spanish Air Force plane headed to Gabon, at Barcelona airport today.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Gabon is officially in mourning for Omar Bongo, who was, until his death Monday, the world’s longest-serving president in the world. But unofficially, “it’s worth remembering that Bongo was precisely the kind of leader Gabon, and Africa, could have done without,” Alex Perry writes for Time. The tiny, oil-rich country should have been an African Kuwait. Instead, Bongo funded “his own fantastically opulent lifestyle.”

Bongo died under investigation by France, where he owned $190 million worth of luxury properties; a third of all Gabonese make less than $2 a day. His 41-year reign, which helped set the standard for Africa’s corrupt “big men,” was in part the product of fixed elections. In February, the US classified his human rights record as “poor,” citing problems like “use of excessive force, including torture.”