Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • Europe launches navigation satellites to rival GPS

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • Iraqi Sunnis quit govt talks after mosque massacre

    Read more

  • US demands Russia withdraw aid convoy from Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rights group sues US government over ‘deportation mill’

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • US National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Missouri town

    Read more

  • Fed Chair says US job market still hampered by Great Recession

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Central African Republic announces coalition cabinet

    Read more

  • Hamas publicly executes "informers"

    Read more

  • French firebrand leftist to quit party presidency, but not politics

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Malaysia mourns as remains of MH17 victims arrive home

    Read more

  • Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu set to be Erdogan's new PM

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

Africa

World leaders honour late President Omar Bongo

Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS , FRANCE 2

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-18

Heads of state honoured Gabon's late President Omar Bongo Ondimba as he was laid to rest. French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived for the funeral amid jeers from the crowd, underscoring France's awkward relations with former colonies.

Some 15 heads of state gathered in Gabon on Tuesday morning to honour the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba at his funeral in the capital, Libreville.  He will be buried later in Franceville near the town where he was born.

Most of the leaders in attendance are from Africa, but a large French delegation is also present, highlighting the importance French leaders still give to their former colonies on the African continent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was joined at the ceremony by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former President Jacques Chirac.

Dozens of Gabonese jeered and yelled at the French leader as he arrived at the presidential palace.

“You French, you come here to eat Gabon,” a man in the crowd told Agence France-Presse. “All the presidents who have come to this palace have left again with their pockets full, and then you criticise us.”

Security guards quickly ushered Sarkozy into the palace and away from the crowd.

The chairman of the African Union commission, Jean Ping, who is originally from Gabon, and the presidents of a number of African countries -- including Paul Biya of Cameroon, François Bozize of the Central African Republic, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville -- were also expected to attend.

Bongo's death at the age of 73 at a medical clinic in Barcelona where he was being treated for intestinal cancer was announced on June 8.

Problematic patronage

Soon after Bongo's death, Sarkozy vowed that France would remain close to its former colonial outpost despite some tense moments in relations.

 

"France, faithful to a long friendship, remains by Gabon's side, that of its institutions, and by its people at this testing time," a communiqué from Sarkozy's office said.

The French military maintains some 1,000 troops in the capital, Libreville, and France's energy giant Total is one of the largest investors in the country.

“France has concrete national interests in Gabon,” said Douglas Yates, a Gabon affairs analyst at the American University in Paris.

A significant oil exporter, Gabon supplies France with petrol, uranium for its nuclear activities, manganese and wood.

Relations between the two countries have at times been described as mutually beneficial, with France importing raw materials and Gabon enjoying the patronage of a world power.

But the Gabonese have sometimes turned on their former colonial masters, accusing it of bleeding their country dry.

Despite the country’s natural wealth, the 1.3 million Gabonese remain predominantly poor and the nation has failed to modernise either its infrastructure or its institutions.

"They think France has been looting their country for decades," Yates told FRANCE 24.

 

It is sentiments like these that may account for Sarkozy's cool welcome. Yates says that across France's former colonies in Africa, "there is increasing understanding that the relationship since independence [has] weighed heavily on the people."

Bongo is credited with uniting Gabon's multitude of regional and ethnic groups under a central government. But this legacy is tarnished by widespread criticisms that he used the country's oil boom during the 1970s and 1980s to enrich himself and his allies while allowing his country to deteriorate.

Bongo cultivated his ties with France very carefully, which helped him consolidate his personal wealth and power.

"He built up a strong network with French politicians [but] didn’t do very much with developing his own country," said Billy Okadameri, Africa editor for Radio France International.

Date created : 2009-06-17

COMMENT(S)