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How Nasty rulers steal our wealth and make us poor

Apr 21, 2017, 11:35 AM

The Looting Machine, warlords, tycoons, smugglers and the systematic theft of Africa’s wealth, Tom Burgis, Collins, 2016, 324 pages

This book should be a timely read for those who will be entrusted with the task of probing the whereabouts and whereof of the alleged loot of ex-president Jammeh. Since our despot fell from power and fled into exile, there have been a lot of media reports on how the rosary-carrying despot allegedly siphoned off millions from our coffers. If true, this new book by a prize winning Financial Times reporter Tom Burgis, should explain why it is so easy for bad rulers to steal from their impoverished people.

This book is a searing exposé of the global web of traders, bankers, middlemen, despots, tyrants, corporate raiders, marabouts, mistresses and all kinds of bad and nasty wheeler-dealers who steal Africa’s wealth. In this book, the author contends that national treasury looters work in tandem with a wide web of conspirators to enable them make Africa poor. He also explains how Western multinationals, Chinese corporations, (p. 81, 111) and Asian mafias all are working with corrupt looters to steal Africa’s resources. There are secretive networks at work to steal from Africa.

In chapter one, the author explains how a tiny clique in Angola has successfully siphoned all the proceeds from the once booming oil and diamond mining concessions to feather their own nests, leaving the ordinary Angolan poorer. The few families around the President Dos Santos ‘embarked on the privatization of power’ and took ‘personal ownership’ of Angola’s wealth (p.10). As a result, according to Burgis, Dos Santos’ daughter became Africa’s first billionaire in 2013! Indeed, between 2007 and 2010 the Angolan elite stole USD32 billion! Equally, telling is the fact that the rulers are able to steal only after inflicting fear into the people so that no one dares ask questions, while the systematic looting of the resources takes place. Gambians will also be familiar with this: create fear and terror first, and then start the looting (p.12).

In chapter 5, the author narrates the sickening corruption in Guinea under the late unlamented tyrant Lasana Conte. As he lay dying in 2008, he still entered into a contract with shady Western companies to exploit Guinea’s rich bauxite deposits. His youngest wife got a bribe of USD 12 million from this company so that her dying husband will agree to the deal (p.109).  In Guinea, what belongs to the state belonged to Conte!

The author further reveals that the looting of Africa’s resources wreaks havoc not only on the economy but also on the fragile ecosystem and environment. He cites how oil companies have poisoned the once serene creeks of the Niger delta in Nigeria such that entire communities have been turned into toxic crannies where nothing thrives, and everything is sick. It is apparent that Africa has 30%  of the world’s minerals and oil; 14% of the world’s population and has 43% of the world’s poor. ‘Why is the richest continent also the poorest’? This book answers the question very well. It is highly recommended read for anyone interested in the fate of Africa as a continent.

Available at Timbooktoo, tel 4494345