Le Gabon peut enfin entrer dans l’histoire en changeant de statut et devenir une véritable filiale de Total, avec un conseil d’administration de personnalités de choix : Chirac, Le Floch’Prigent, Pasqua… et un conseiller en or de la société BK consulting.

Conseil d’administration houleux au Gabon

Le conseil d’administration exceptionnel du Gabon qui se tenait ce mardi à Libreville s’est déroulé dans une atmosphère tendue. En effet, le président du conseil et représentant de l’actionnaire majoritaire (UMP), Nicolas Sarkozy, a été accueilli sous les huées d’une poignée de salariés, remettant en cause la politique sociale de l’entreprise. Avant même l’ouverture de la réunion, Nicolas Sarkozy avait tenu à informer les salariés du Gabon de ses intentions: « Il faut tourner la page de la Françafrique. Le Gabon a besoin de transparence, d’une gouvernance apaisée, dans le respect des intérêts de chacun. »


« Ca fait une répétition avant celui de Giscard »

La mort d’Omar Bongo est en effet l’occasion pour les actionnaires du Gabon de revoir le statut de l’entreprise et de changer le mode de gouvernance. Jusqu’ici, dans le cadre d’un partenariat avec Total, l’UMP avait confié la gérance du pays à un homme du cru, Omar Bongo. Malheureusement, de forts soupçons de corruption pesaient sur cet ami de la France. Ainsi les membres du conseil d’administration (Nicolas Sarkozy, Jacques Chirac, Loïk le Floch’Prigent, Bernard Kouchner, Jean-Louis Debré….) devrait entériner le changement de statut du pays, qui deviendra une Société Anonyme, filiale à 100% de Total. Dans le souci de restaurer un dialogue social apaisé, le nom de la future multinationale devrait être soumise aux citoyens/salariés gabonais par référendum. Dans ce cadre, une étude marketting a été commandée au cabinet BK Consulting qui planche sur les futurs noms et drapeaux à soumettre au vote populaire.

L’étude de BK Consulting a coûté 817 000 euros

Mais la mesure la plus spectaculaire est sans doute la probable nomination de Jacques Chirac à la direction du Gabon. Fini donc la gérance pour ce qui sonne comme une reprise en main de l’actionnaire : « Nous devons arriver à plus d’efficacité. On doit simplifier les modes de financement des campagnes électorales. Il faut limiter au maximum les intermédiaires ». L’ancien président français trouve ainsi un poste à sa mesure où il saura faire valoir toute son expérience. « J’en ai faite des campagnes électorales, et financées de manière plus ou moins exotiques. Comptez sur moi pour faire aller l’argent là où il sera le plus utile ». Jacques Chirac devrait s’entourer d’anciens conseillers spécialisés dans les affaires électorales et africaines, comme Jean Tibéri ou Charles Pasqua.

Les actionnaires minoritaires n’ont pas su se mettre d’accord pour imposer leur direction

Avant même sa prise de fonctions, la nouvelle direction du Gabon a tenu à rendre hommage à son prédecesseur. Ainsi Jacques Chirac a félicité le défunt « pour sa remarquable gestion de l’entreprise, qui fait du Gabon un des fleurons de la production de matières précieuses. Je tiens à saluer sa politique économique qui a su réduire la masse salariale, investir judicieusement dans l’immobilier français et enfin respecter l’environnement gabonais en limitant au maximum les infrastructures. »


Le service d’ordre de l’entreprise

Du côté des salariés gabonais, on fait grise mine. Et on ne croit guère à la gouvernance éthique promise par l’actionnaire français. « La redistribution des bénéfices est au coeur des revendications. On revendique la règle des trois tiers prônés par Nicolas Sarkozy. Jusque là c’était plutôt 85% à l’actionnaire et 15% à la direction. La rénovation du capitalisme doit passer par le Gabon ». Certains extrémistes vont même plus loin, réclamant du bout des lèvres l’auto-gestion des ressources naturelles, sur le modèle vénézuélien. Malheureusement, « l’homme gabonais n’est pas assez entré dans l’histoire et a besoin du savoir faire français pour gérer au mieux les richesses de son sous-sol. »

Une vision partagée par les soldats français postés à Libreville.

3 Commentaires

  1. Gabon: Omar Bongo; Franco-African Secret Society

    Nicholas Shaxson22 June 2009
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    Nairobi — After becoming president, Bongo set about building a one-party state. “Gabon was being tugged between different tribes and regions,” he said.

    “Having multiple parties would have been dangerous; democracy soon turns into an explosion of demands which it is impossible to satisfy, leading to endless strikes which fragile countries like ours cannot withstand.”

    Gabon, he said, needed discipline, not democracy. So he held an election, winning with over 99 per cent of the vote.

    Bongo remained fiercely pro-French, resisting advice from President Mobutu of Zaire to rename Gabon’s second city, Franceville, with a more African name.

    “I love France, which is still my own country, a little bit,” Bongo said.

    Yet he was becoming more confident and independent-minded, too, and he took Gabon into OPEC in 1973 and converted to Islam, changing his name from Albert-Bernard to El Hadj Omar Bongo.

    Perhaps one of Bongo’s greatest pieces of luck, oddly enoug+h, was to have come from a minority ethnic group.

    This made him perfect for France — since he had no solid local support base of his own, he would have to rely heavily on French soldiers to prevent coups.

    But it also meant that he has had to work tirelessly to keep potentially antagonistic factions happy, building coalitions among minorities as counterweights to the dominant Fangs, and allocating resources judiciously to keep everyone loyal.

    Bongo began to prove himself a master puppeteer, deftly tweaking the strings of a helter-skelter of marionettes beneath him — from the powerful “Bongo barons” plugged into leaks in the budget, through foreign politicians and oil, timber, and manganese interests, to the various leaders in a complex and antsy ethnic patchwork.

    “To fight tribalism, we made sure never to favour one of our nine provinces over the others,” he went on.

    “If there are nine places to fill, we take one from each province. Really, it is a policy of quotas; we push minorities forward — a bit like what the Americans call positive discrimination. We try to choose the best person for the job, but it is not always possible. If the minorities feel aggrieved, they react, and it can be violent. Once a fabric is torn, it is hard to put it back together.”

    He rebukes ministers who stuff their cabinets only with their ethnic brethren.

    Local politics are so sensitive to ethnicity that Bongo, even if provoked by interviewers, will not mention the ethnic groups by name. He also acts like a village superchief, personally resolving disputes.

    When students or trade unions clamour to go on strike, only a face-to-face interview with Bongo, where he might hand out cash, will solve it.

    When he is out of town, nobody in Gabon makes important decisions.

    “In your country,” Bongo told a French interviewer, “numerous barriers prevent ordinary citizens from reaching the president. Not here. I receive ordinary citizens…. some have come hundreds of kilometres to tell me their problems; I don’t have the right not to receive them. Often I just give them what I can, a financial donation.”

    In essence, he learned how to allocate oil money carefully.

    To outsiders, this looks like corruption — which is also what it is. Economics is about who gets what, so economics in Africa’s oil zones is, in fact, just politics.

    He doesn’t see it as sleaze, “Don’t speak to me about corruption,” he told one interviewer.

    “That is not an African word.”

    Yet he and his family also became — especially after the 1970s oil boom — fabulously wealthy.

    The French spy Maurice Robert, who became France’s ambassador in Libreville in 1979, said that for all his admiration for Bongo, he had to try and protect Bongo against himself.

    “Spontaneously generous, he gave too much leeway to his family and close allies in the world of business,” Robert said. “This stained his image badly, with accusations of corruption.”

    Along with his extensive secret services at home and abroad, which mingled with the French foreign intelligence networks, other very curious currents underpinned Bongo’s rule and the relationship with France.

    Secret societies like Bwiti, which use the drug iboga to conjure up spirits, are central to Gabonese culture. They use cruel, unpleasant, and even dangerous initiation rituals, which instil fierce loyalty.

    The writer Pierre Pean describes initiation rites for one secret society: Would-be ministers would travel to Franceville, near Bongo’s birthplace, where they would make secret vows. Next, Bongo would wash his feet in a bowl, and the supplicant would drink the contents.

    The French secret services knew that white people would not be initiated into these very African, very private power networks.

    But they did find that Western fraternal societies — Freemasons, Rose-Croix (Rosicrucians), or Opus Dei — which still infest Western politics today — grew splendidly in Africa’s fertile cultural soils, where local traditions had already learned over centuries to accommodate Catholicism, Protestantism, and other foreign beliefs.

    Bongo created (and is still today grand master of) the Grand Rite Equatorial, an Africanised hybrid of two French lodges that has members in several countries, and most top Elf officials were Masons. In the former British colonies, Freemasonry is also active, but most are shunned by the Franco-African Masons as Trojan horses for dreaded AngloSaxon influence. A Gabonese professor told me more:

    “Freemasonry is about solidarity: you help others. It is also a way to control people, and those in power use it. These people are hard to recognise. Bongo uses Freemasonry; he uses Rose-Croix; he uses Bwiti. With rituals there is fear of the sacred, of mystical forces. They can make you do things to use against you later… If they have your secrets, you will obey. If you have the top 200 men in [this] position — then you have the country! There are other fears, too. You can prevent a man from earning — if you are in the opposition, you take Bongo’s money. If you are cast out from the system, that is the end for you — social death. That fear is as effective as violence. In some countries the fear of a brutal ruler is open, but not here. It is not like the death squads in Colombia. It is more subtle.”

    These fraternal societies supercharged Foccart’s networks, which spread under and subverted the facades of official power like tree roots.

    Fortified with oil money, they helped Bongo bend the leaders of fractious tribes to his will and give him a purchase on power at all levels of society.

    When the formal laws that we are familiar with in the West break down in Africa, solidarity networks replace them _ the only order available amid the disorder of venal, broken nations. (Networks of different kinds also enable certain groups — Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, or Muslim traders — to flourish amid Africa’s chaos.)

    By plugging Gabon into France via oil and Freemasonry, Foccart had created something unusually potent.

    These systems also provided African rulers with side channels into French politics, linking up with what the writer Stephen Smith calls “a parallel, shadow structure, more important than the visible, elected structure of the French state.”

    The invisible oil-fed subterranean networks help explain odd things. Opposition parties never get anywhere: They appear, but instead of falling under bullets or truncheon blows they rise, crest, then sink into irrelevance, as if sapped by a mysterious undertow.

    One firebrand opposition leader, Paul Mba Abessole, who roused the masses against Bongo in the early 1990s, is now part of the “presidential majority,” a group of wealthy pro-Bongo political parties that one satirical Gabonese newspaper called “a box of cheese, assaulted by mice.”

    Others, informally labelled the “convivial opposition,” pretend to oppose Bongo, but don’t.

    These politicians drive luxury four-wheel drives and wear the latest suits from Paris.

    The late French author Francois-Xavier Verschave told me that when he was being sued jointly by Bongo and by the presidents of nearby Congo-Brazzaville and Chad, ordinary citizens from two of the countries lined up to defend him. But from Gabon, nobody came.

    “Gabon,” he said, “is where the fear runs deepest. If you can instil that kind of fear, you don’t have to do much of the rough stuff.”

    Foccart also created a covert strong-arm brigade, the Service d’Action Civique (SAC).

    This was first set up to check communist party troublemakers at political demonstrations organised by president de Gaulle, but it evolved to carry out messier operations against France’s enemies and to give Foccart’s networks a steel backbone as he coiled his influence deep into Africa.

    The mercenary Bob Denard, the most famous of these men, operated out of Libreville.

    With the help of French secret agents, Freemasons, oil, timber, uranium and manganese magnates, and the mercenaries and hard men, Bongo set up what has been called the Clan Gabonais, a group of operators loyal to French political parties, to France, and to Bongo.

    His Garde Presidentielle was a praetorian guard under French commanders, with French and Gabonese soldiers.

    Gabon’s oil was central to the system.

    The country became, according to the writer Pierre Pean, “an outgrowth of the French state; an extreme case of neocolonialism, verging on the caricature… The roles are split, under the guise of non-interference… Africans deal with tribal quarrels while the French look after serious things, namely exploiting the natural riches.”

    Gabon was ruled jointly, he said, by Foccart, the right-wing Gaullist party in France, and Elf.

    Years later, French investigators in the Elf headquarters in Paris seized a plan, never executed, to assassinate the writer Pean, who had nosed too far into the secret Franco-Gabonese world.

    The book had been published not long after the election in 1981 of François Mitterrand, France’s first Socialist president in a quarter of a century, and tremendous underground political tussles were underway between left-wing and right-wing factions in France, with Bongo leading the charge on behalf of the right-wingers.

    One incoming French foreign intelligence chief was astonished to discover that Elf’s intelligence services were penetrating his own.”Pean’s book was interpreted by the Foccart people as a Socialist-inspired attempt to discredit them,” said the Africa expert Stephen Ellis.

    “[The rise of Mitterrand] provoked real trepidation among the Elf networks, which feared the Socialists would destroy them. There were some on the left of the Socialist Party who indeed intended just that.

    A lengthy political struggle ensued that finished with an almost complete victory by the old Foccart networks, whose effective leader was Bongo.”

    As part of his strategy, Bongo even threatened Mitterrand with the nuclear option — turning toward the Americans under the recently elected Ronald Reagan.

    But he never did.

    Instead, a compromise was reached, which left the Clan unscathed: French right-wingers kept their fingers firmly in the fabulous Gabonese pie, but it was expanded to let the French Socialists get a piece too.

    It is remarkable to think how far this African president had influenced politics in a big Western democracy.

    Libreville also became a rear base for Igbo secessionists in Nigeria’s Biafra war, whose cause de Gaulle had foolishly backed, hoping to split Nigeria’s oil zones off from the English-speaking parent. About a million people died in that conflict.

    Over the years, the Gabonese Clan squeezed its tentacles into conflicts in Rhodesia, Angola, Benin, Yemen, the Comoros Islands, Zaire’s Katanga province, and Congo-Brazzaville; Bongo even recognized apartheid South Africa’s racially segregated Bantustans.

    Occasionally, when it suited France, the United States used Bongo for its own international parallel diplomacy, such as paying off separatist rebels in the Angolan oil enclave of Cabinda where American oil companies operated.

    Bongo turned up in the most unlikely places — mediating in wars, calling African presidents, discreetly flying opposition figures or rebel leaders to Libreville for chats.

    They sometimes left with suitcases of cash.

    “The Gabonese miracle would give Gaullist France the means to achieve its ambitions, far from the concessions that it had to negotiate with the AngloSaxons in the reserved lands of the Middle East,” wrote the French newspaper Le monde diplomatique.

    “From its Gabonese platform, Elf and its clan played politics across the African continent.”

    Though Bongo was less repressive than many African leaders, his government was no soft touch. When a radical opposition leader was shot dead in his car in Libreville in 1971, his family saw muscular white men pulling his body into a Peugeot and driving off.

    The murder was never solved. In 1990, the year that Mitterrand made his famous “La Baule” speech supposedly marking a break with a dirty Franco-African past, a leading Gabonese dissident, Joseph Rendjambe, was found dead in his hotel room with syringe marks in his stomach.

    An inquest said he died of natural causes, but disbelieving mobs, in Gabon’s worst riots ever, briefly occupied the French embassy and took French oil staff hostage.

    French troops in armoured vehicles quelled the riots, killing five. Not long afterward, Gabon hosted a huge tender for oil licences. Dozens of firms from Europe and North America prepared their dossiers, and submitted their bids, Elf won every licence.

    Not only did Elf get the best exploration territories and fabulous contract terms, but other French companies more or less kept up the monopolies they had enjoyed for over a century.

    Beyond all this, France also wrested control of much of the money from Gabon’s natural resources that had escaped Elf and flowed contractually to Gabon’s treasury. After independence, the central bank had its headquarters in Paris, under a French chairman and a French-dominated board.

    The French treasury guaranteed the CFA franc currency, which Gabon shared with its near neighbours and which bolstered French control over its former colonies like Gabon.

    They had to deposit two-thirds of their reserves with the French treasury and to prepare annual programmes of imports from non-franc countries; France not only set limits on imports of some items from outside the franc zone, but also minimum quantities for imports from France.

    Capital flight from Gabon financed French deficits.

    France had also set its relationships with its former colonies in stone with the now-infamous Co-operation Accords, a kind of all-conquering version of foreign aid.

    A French prime minister, just before the wave of independence in 1960, explained how the colonies were to kowtow to French will, even after decolonisation: “Independence is granted on condition that the State, once independent, will abide by the co-operation agreements… one does not go without the other.”

    These accords incorporated the secret defence accords, anchored the monetary and trading relationships, and secured strategic minerals for France. Some “aid” money flowed out of the French treasury, into the Gabonese offshore turntable, then back into France to secretly finance its political parties.

    The Clan grew fat on a Franco-Gabonese bureaucracy of nested rules, tax breaks, and exemptions that were hard for outsiders to penetrate.

    Ports were awkward for ships not owned by the French transport and constructions titans; imports without letters of credit from French banks faced unpredictable delays; and French weapons, railways, or airplanes could be serviced only by French engineers with French spare parts.

    From the French firms, Foccart harvested a bounty of intelligence; at the ports, airports, and finance ministries of the CFA Zone, nothing important escaped his notice.

    Even in 1997, when Mr Autogue was presenting me to Gabon’s captains of industry, some had white Frenchmen at their shoulders, politely massaging the interviews.

    Gabon also served French exporters a bonanza — for decades after independence, typically two-thirds of Gabon’s imports have flowed from France, compared to just a hundredth from its African neighbours. In a big supermarket in the oil town of Port-Gentil, I found no African produce at all.

    Instead, the shelves creaked with French milk from Choisy-le-Roi, French quail terrine, French duck confit, French televisions and videos, and racks of French wine. Even a frozen chicken that had grown up in Brazil found its way to this supermarket via Paris.

    Monopolistic practices boosted the profits of French companies in Gabon.

    The result, as the oil dollars also raised demand in the economy, was higher price levels, which encouraged more imports, while local producers suffered.

    It is no coincidence that at the turn of the millennium Libreville was the world’s fifth most expensive place to live after Tokyo, Osaka, Hong Kong and Zurich.

    Bongo became a flamboyant big spender. At an Organisation of African Unity summit in Libreville in 1977, during the oil boom, half the national budget was spent on impressing visiting presidents, who got an honour guard with red velvet capes and gold swords.

    The skeletons of their hotels and armoured Cadillacs litter Libreville today. Bongo also kicked off the Transgabonais rail project, to connect his home region in eastern Gabon with the coast.

    Launching it on his birthday with dancing girls, French politicians, and champagne, he promised a zone of prosperity one hundred kilometres wide along the railway’s axis.

    “If one must strike a bargain with the devil to build the railway,” he said, “I am fully ready.”

    Today, a surprisingly punctual air-conditioned rail service runs through the forest, and conductors in French-style peaked caps clip your tickets, while waiters serve croissants.

    Yet at a cost of almost three billion dollars, it was a sinkhole for the oil money; in a privatisation tender in 1999, Gabon sold a 20-year concession on the railway, along with the rolling stock, to French timber interests who paid less than a hundredth of what Gabon had originally spent to build it.

    If you take interest into account, its final cost is greater than today’s national debt, most of which is owed to France. Debt repayments today take up almost half of the budget.

    The late François-Xavier Verschave entitled one of his books La Francafrique, referring to what he calls the “submerged face of the Franco-African iceberg.” Francafrique is a play on the French words for France-Africa, but it also sounds like France a fric, which means France on the take.

    We should not forget, however, that this system has also helped preserve Gabon for decades as an island of stability in a turbulent region. Some argue that this alone is enough to justify all the predation.

    Indeed, French scholars talked about a “pax franca” all across francophone Africa.

    A confidential French military study in 1991 tried to appraise how the French, British, and other postcolonial systems had fared during the Cold War, producing results for the “grand experiment” that the Ivorian president Houphouet-Boigny had posed more than three decades earlier.

    It concluded that military spending had been proportionally lower in the former French colonies than in the British, Portuguese, or Belgians ones, but only 40,000 people had died in francophone wars, compared with 2 million in the former British colonies, 2 million in the Belgian ones, and 1.2 million in the Portuguese ex-colonies.

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    The study was certainly biased: it ignored a million deaths in Biafra — many, if not most of which resulted directly from French interference. Even so, it gave the French grounds for feeling smug.

    The Franco-Gabonese Clan prospered through the turbulence of the end of the Cold War, and a little way beyond. But in 1994, as a new world order began to emerge, a decades-long political consensus in France about Africa suddenly began to break down.

    Change was in the air. Soon, Houphouet-Boigny’s “grand experiment” to judge the relative strengths of the French and the other European models of decolonisation would require a different appraisal, rather less kind to France.

    Reproduced with permission from Poisoned Wells: The dirty politics of African oil by Nicholas Shaxson, published in 2007 by Palgrave Macmillan.

  2. c’est triste !mais c’est ainsi que l’on pourrait caricaturer la france-à -fric;pardon francafrique.
    Dans la petite histoire il manque juste notre nigérian,qui a le toupet de fermer les frontières sans aviser le gouvernement et veut se présenter à la future élection parait-il.Mais avant qu’il se souvienne de NKAMGO NKOMO qui périt dans des pneus au pk6.
    Avec tous les sous qu’il nous a pris,Ali peut allez vivre paisiblement à Lagos et amener son ami MBA OBAME tourner les booty talk, sans que les gabonais leurs fassent des histoire.

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