I caught a quick news blurb on Nightline last night about the presidential visit of Ali Bongo to the White House. The clip was from an earlier broadcast on ABC news.
The visit has touch off a bit of controversy in that the Bongo regime is fraught with government corruption and accused of robbing the country of its wealth while leaving its population in poverty. ABC reports that:
The Bongos’ lifestyle is a stark contrast to how most people live in Gabon, a French-speaking West African country the size of Colorado that is home to 1.5 million people. Oil revenues make Gabon one of Africa’s most prosperous countries, but it is also a place where some families are still forced to pick through garbage to eat. One third of the population lives on $2 per day.
What makes this interesting is that Bongo is also the grand master of Gabonese Freemasons, installed in May of 2010.
From Afrik-News: Freemason Presidents in Africa: Ali Bongo ordained Grand Master of Gabon.
Francois Stifani, the grand master of the National Grand Lodge of France (GLNF), one of the largest Masonic orders with 38 000 members, was in Libreville two weeks ago to ordain Ali Bongo, who until then occupied the rank of Assistant Grand Master, i.e.; at least three levels below the peak of the hierarchy. At age 53, Ali Bongo has become the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Gabon (GLB) and the Grand Equatorial Rite, the two predominant Freemason orders in Gabon.
A video of which appeared on YouTube shortly there after.
The sentiment, as expressed in the Afrik reporting is that the Gabon’s have ruled their country through a hierarchy of Masonic association, outing and ostracizing elected officials who were not a part of the lodge. The Afrik-News article reports:
To gain Bongo’s trust, a politician was expected to adhere to at least one of the two orders. Almost the entire Gabonese ruling political class is part of the lodge.
Those who refuse to submit to these dictates are banished or ridiculed. Interviewed by Le Nouvel Observateur, Ernest Tomo, pastor of an evangelical church and an unsuccessful presidential candidate in August, accused the Gabonese “brethren” of orchestrating his low electoral score (308 votes, or 0.09% votes).
Those two orders are the Grand Rite Equatorial — affiliated with Great Orient (GO) which is left wing oriented, and the Grand Lodge of Gabon.
The optimistic side of the fence says that Bongo will apply the teachings of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth to his governance of Gabon, but as more of the facts appear they seem to tell otherwise.
The CIA fact book reports on Gabon:
Despite the abundance of natural wealth, poor fiscal management hobbles the economy. In 1997, an IMF mission to Gabon criticized the government for overspending on off-budget items, over borrowing from the central bank, and slipping on its schedule for privatization and administrative reform.
Ultimately, the reason for the so called African tyrant’s visit, says the UK Telegraph, is because (quoting the White House press secretary):
“the president of Gabon is making reform efforts, which we support. Secondly … Gabon has been an important partner in some of the issues that are very important to American national security.”
It makes one wonder why exactly such a partnership exists and why it’s conveyed all the way to the White House. Most likely, the reason is that Gabon holds the UN Security Council Presidency in June. From the press releases coming from the Council on , it seems some important work for Africa is being done despite the living conditions in Gabon.