Source: Associated Press
Sunday evening, news agencies worldwide were reporting that the man who
held the dubious title of "Africa's longest serving leader" had finally
met his demise. This coveted crown, once held by Mr. Kamuzu Banda of
Malawi, was all set to be passed on to another leader such as Mr
Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya. Just when the world was coming to grips
with the passing of the de facto King
of Gabon, the Gabonese authorities refuted all death claims. According
to them, Mr. Bongo is very much alive and is continuing his "holiday"
in Spain. Alas, it appears that good people of Gabon are the only ones
who actually believe that Omar Bongo is still with us. Wikipedia has
already written him off and have updated their 'Omar Bongo' page
stating his death as 7 June 2009.
am I so fascinated? Well, out of all the countries I have visited, my
trip to Gabon last year was truly unforgettable. I was there for 2
months and during that time I failed to really understand the country.
From the unspoiled beaches to the rich lush equatorial forests, it is
still very hard to describe Gabon. A nation full of contradictions;
extreme wealth coupled with extreme poverty. The entire nation is
adorned with sign-boards with Mr. Bongo's picture, monuments
celebrating him and a Presidential palace that makes the White House
look like a quaint country club. The Gabonese people were equally
fascinating. Customer service has a unique meaning in Gabon and a visit
to Libreville is not recommended for someone looking for a budget
vacation. Yet, Libreville has an undeniable vibrant pulse. I will never
forget the beautiful Italian restaurant we ate in that was literally on
water or the wonderfully paved streets. I spent most of my time in the
provincial town of Lambaréné which has a strange 1950s colonial feel
with great roads, bridges, rivers and fantastic lighting.
certain that Mr. Bongo has left this world to join his long-departed
contemporaries but I'm also sure that the Gabonese authorities will
deny the news while they strategise how best to prevent the country
falling apart like a house of cards. Will power continue to rest in the
hands of the Bongo family and the ruling elite? Does the death of Mr.
Bongo pave the way for real power to go to the people for the first
time since 1967? The possibilities are infinite. In the meantime, we
can always enjoy Gabonese rap courtesy of Eben Entertainment family