Gabon fury over French TV report on president's wealth
Gabon reacted with fury and threatened diplomatic retribution after French state television broadcast a report on President Omar Bongo Ondimba's real estate interests.
LIBREVILLE, March 6, 2008 - Gabon reacted with fury and threatened
diplomatic retribution on Wednesday after French state television broadcast a
report on President Omar Bongo Ondimba's real estate interests.
Gabon's foreign ministry announced it had summoned the French ambassador in
Libreville to express the government's "astonishment" over Monday night's
report on the 72-year-old president's properties in France.
"In this context, Gabon hereby reserves the right to react against this
furious media attack ... in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and
is currently reflecting on future Franco-Gabonese relations," a statement said.
State broadcaster France 2's report detailed the property owned by Bongo's
family in Paris, which the newspaper Le Monde has said includes 33 houses and
flats, with one mansion alone worth 18 million euros (27 million dollars).
After the resignation last month of Cuba's President Fidel Castro, Bongo
has become the world's longest serving leader with more than 40 years at the
helm of his oil-rich west African country.
He has had close times with every French president since General Charles de
Gaulle and Gabon -- which hosts a major French military base -- has been a key
player in France's murky web of relations with its former African colonies.
In recent weeks, however, ties have been strained by a visa row triggered
when France expelled two Gabonese students. Gabon has warned the 10,000 French
expatriates living there to expect tighter application of visa rules.
The ministry said the "active and hostile campaign" in the French media had
hurt the good relations and mutual interests enjoyed by France and Gabon,
while Gabon "has always remained a reliable ally to France".