Tuesday, February 17, 2009

High priest of 'humanitarian intervention' raking it in off dictators

Or so it seems:

The possibility that French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner might have misused his public position in France to boost his profitable private business with prominent African dictators arises at a time when the local authorities are dealing with numerous corruption affairs.

The accusations against Kouchner are summarised in a new book 'Le Monde selon K.' (The world according to K.) by investigative journalist Pierre Péan.

In the book, Péan alleges that Kouchner, co-owner of IMEDIA and African Steps, obtained profitable contracts from the governments of Gabon and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) at a time when he was executive director of a public health cooperation agency in Paris. IMEDIA and African Steps are two political counselling companies.

The governments in Gabon and the Republic of Congo – both oil-rich countries – are notorious as two particularly corrupt dictatorships. Omar Bongo has ruled Gabon since 1968 and Denis Sassou Nguesso has been in power in Brazzaville since 1997 when his troops, supported by Angola, won a civil war against the then president Pascal Lissouba.

Bongo and Sassou Nguesso have family links: Bongo is married to Edith Lucie Sassou-Nguesso, Denis's daughter.

According to the claims by Péan, based on official documents from the respective African governments, the two companies were paid 4.6 million euros by the governments of Gabon and Congo Brazzaville, for advising their respective health departments.