The preliminary investigation by a French Magistrate into alleged embezzlement by three African leaders as a result of lawsuits by the Paris-branch of the anti-graft group, Transparency International (TI) is like setting the cat among the pigeons.
Even if the desired result is not achieved at the end of the day, it will show off a number of other African leaders who have constantly plundered their countries national treasuries to buy luxurious chateau and villas in key sports as Switzerland, France, Costa de Sol and Marjoca.
Although the three leaders President Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea deny any wrong doing, it remains undisputed that this is just the tip of the ice berg by many African leaders.
Many no doubt will be saying silent prayers for this test case to either be thrown out or die a natural death. Many African strategists agree that taking on the three leaders may well be a right start to send the message that the people’s toil and sweat should not be used to provide comfort and soft landing for African leaders as they safaried in Europe and the Americas.
The court hearing will set a precedent. It will show that somewhere along the line, if accountability organizations are too feeble, shaky or hesitant to focus such the torchlight on African leaders, international groups can shoo in on these inadequacies.
Showcase has in the past been of late leaders as Mobutu of the D.R. Congo, Felix Houphouet-Boigny and Jean Bokassa of the Central Africa Republic. There is obviously no smoke without fire. Some African leaders have registered and hold title deeds for houses under assumed names or self-styled relations.
They conveniently ignore the terrible conditions their folks are living back home. With the world’s over one billion poor, two billion without electricity and three billion without clean drinking water and sanitation, how can some African leaders ignore the dilemma of their people and spray the people’s cash around as if they had just won the sweep strake.
One has to take a glance at the shabby health system in the country they rule, the parchy roads they drive their high-performance jeep on while their sweaty citizens toil from dawn to dusk. Transparency International accused the three leaders of buying luxury homes and high performance vehicles in France with money which the organization claimed came from African public funds.
Without pointing fingers, the background of the three leaders assent to power makes sordid reading. Bongo, widely called the dodger, when his back is turned, is Africa’s longest serving President and came to power in 1967.
For Obiang, who seized power in oil rich Equatorial Guinea 30 years ago, Guineans should thank their stars for having him in the political saddle, he normally dismisses his opponents.
Nguesso, who took power in the Republic of Congo, frequently referred to as Congo Brazzaville, his presidential jet is more often on the air than on the ground heading sometimes for nowhere in particular.
I remember one take-off from Brazza Airport and it was like a half holiday. Everybody was virtually there to watch him go with a 90 member delegation to watch a football match in Lyon. From domestic cooks to brass buttoned military officers while dancers somersaulted with the agility of acrobats. Women danced as though their waists were hinged on sockets.
The world should know that Nguesso was going somewhere. And this may be the wastage being talked about. But with the momentum now on in French judicial circles, many African leaders will be asking, however inaudibly, “who will be next to be named.” Or would they suffer for the sins of others?
By Rod Mac-Johnson