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France awkwardly probes its best African friends

Nothing says “let’s be friends!” quite like opening up a corruption case against your buddy in Magistrate Court. Right? A French court approved a probe yesterday into the assets and dealings of three African presidents, who are, rather awkwardly, some of the country’s best allies on the continent. Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of ...

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(FILES) A combination of pictures made on December 2, 2008 shows (FromL) Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang on February 16, 2008 in Havana, Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso on July 5, 2007 in Paris and Gabon's President Omar Bongo Ondimba on February 14, 2007 in Cannes. French anti-corruption activists on December 2, 2008 filed suit against the presidents of Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea, accusing them of acquiring luxury homes in France with embezzled public money. AFP PHOTO/ ADALBERTO ROQUE/ PATRICK KOVARICK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/ ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)

Nothing says "let's be friends!" quite like opening up a corruption case against your buddy in Magistrate Court. Right?

A French court approved a probe yesterday into the assets and dealings of three African presidents, who are, rather awkwardly, some of the country's best allies on the continent. Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo Republic, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea will face scrutiny for charges brought by the French branch of Transparency International. The leaders are accused of embezzling funds from their impoverished countries for luxury homes and cars. Politics considerations are urged to be left aside

While perhaps embarrassing for the African presidents, I imagine this investigation should be even more scandalous for France -- and not just because France has commercial ties in each of the accused presidents' countries. France surely knows that its property market boasts owners among Africa's elite (and, in these cases, corrupt); it has been that way since colonial days. That it has taken so long to "notice" this trend is not likely a matter of innocent oversight. And in terms of the this friendship, the truth does indeed hurt.

Nothing says “let’s be friends!” quite like opening up a corruption case against your buddy in Magistrate Court. Right?

A French court approved a probe yesterday into the assets and dealings of three African presidents, who are, rather awkwardly, some of the country’s best allies on the continent. Omar Bongo of Gabon, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo Republic, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea will face scrutiny for charges brought by the French branch of Transparency International. The leaders are accused of embezzling funds from their impoverished countries for luxury homes and cars. Politics considerations are urged to be left aside

While perhaps embarrassing for the African presidents, I imagine this investigation should be even more scandalous for France — and not just because France has commercial ties in each of the accused presidents’ countries. France surely knows that its property market boasts owners among Africa’s elite (and, in these cases, corrupt); it has been that way since colonial days. That it has taken so long to “notice” this trend is not likely a matter of innocent oversight. And in terms of the this friendship, the truth does indeed hurt.

PATRICK KOVARIK/ ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Dickinson is a Gulf-based member of the journalism collective Deca.

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