Lariviere’s deal with Ali Bongo and Eric Benjaminson collapses in violence

9/3/2016: The history of this bizarre UO foray into foreign affairs has yet to be written, but so far it involves the US ambassador to Gabon seeing a chance for a retirement gig at UO, the State Department’s sophomoric remix of Kissinger’s real-politic, Richard Lariviere’s desperate effort to get some money for something other than Duck sports, and a lot of oil money stolen from some very poor Africans. Like so many corrupt Oregon deals, some otherwise smart people gave it a pass because it was carefully packaged as “green” and “sustainable”. Oregon and Gabon: Twin Edens.

Here’s UO President Richard Lariviere at the White House with President Bongo and US Ambassador Eric Benjamin – now a UO employee – in happier times in 2010:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 8.32.38 PM

The Guardian reports on kleptomaniacal President for Life Bongo’s current re-election dispute. Many have died:

… However, Bongo scored lower than his father, who famously won 100% of the national vote in the 1986 election, with a 99.9% turnout, when Gabon was still a one-party state.

[Opposition candidate Jean Ping], a half-Chinese diplomat who was previously one of the Bongo family’s most trusted cronies, rejected the result and demanded a recount in Haut Ogooué.

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And the NYT gives Ping a platform:

On Saturday, Aug. 27, presidential elections were held in my country,Gabon, in West Africa, and I was the candidate who won by a substantial vote margin. Nearly a week later, I would have expected to be addressing the world as Gabon’s president-elect, ready and willing to work with the United States and all our international partners to fight terrorism, build our economies and improve the lives of our citizens through increased development and cooperation.

Sure. That and deliver a share of the spoils to his partners.

1/18/2016: UO Foundation must write off Bongo’s $15M endowment promise

Under the Foundation’s rules they had until the end of 2016 to get the money from Gabon or take it off the books. Maybe I’m missing the nuance in this Le Monde article, but obviously it’s not coming by 2016. The truth is there is no money: Ali Bongo blew it on luxury real estate, fast cars, soccer players, and wives, while leaving his country mired in poverty. The collapsing price of oil made it impossible for his government to continue to keep up the pretense.

And so ends one of Richard Lariviere’s crazier ideas. One of the RG’s several critical editorials on it is here, and other UOM posts are here. Thanks to Bongo’s political opponents for forwarding the link, and best of luck in the elections and after:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 6.07.24 PM

12/27/2015: Gabon’s kleptomaniacal President for Life Ali Bongo stiffs UO on $15M gift

Rumor down at Dennis Galvan’s Office of International Affairs is that there are a lot of nuances here, and we may get the money “soon”.

Sure. With oil below $40 and an election coming up amidst the ongoing French investigations of corruption, and family infighting over the loot accumulated by Bongo’s father Omar, I’m thinking the UO Foundation is going to have to write off the $15M endowment gift that Bongo promised UO back in 2011 pretty soon.

But apparently former US Ambassador to Gabon Eric Benjaminson, whom we hired to run the “Twin Edens” project shortly after he convinced Bongo to give the money, still has a couple million left from the original $5M, and is funding a variety of research projects.

For more on this story, including the suitcases of cash Bongo has been sending his American wife, and some spectacular real estate purchases, check out the Gabon tab below.

Striking students clash with police at UO’s partner University Omar Bongo, in Gabon

12/18/2014: And people at UO flip out over a few picketing grad students?

Last I heard the status of the $15M endowment payment to the UO Foundation was still up in the air. I can’t imagine $60 oil is going to increase the chances it will happen.

6/18/2014 update: Trouble in Gabon for Bongo jr. over education, corruption

From the NYT. I didn’t see a quote from former UO Ambassador and current Director of the $20M UO-Gabon project, Eric Benjaminson. Too bad, he must have some inside knowledge on this:

Many in Libreville are angry at the luxurious lifestyles of officials, including Bongo and his entourage. At an investment summit last month, traffic jams clogged city streets as presidential vehicles swept along the coastal road. VIPs drank champagne at a red-carpet gala at a seafront hotel, just blocks from the city’s sprawling shanties. …

Education is key to delivering on Bongo’s pledge to create opportunities for a growing young population, more than one- third of whom are unemployed. Yet at the state-run Omar Bongo University, the campus is littered with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters after police clashed with students protesting the lack of basics, such as text books and Internet access.

Exam results pinned to a classroom wall showed that just 19 out of 176 students studying for an economy degree had passed.

Like much of the political elite, whose offspring are educated in Europe or the United States, Bongo’s son was sent to exclusive British boarding school Eton.

“The authorities don’t send their children here. They send them away,” said 26-year-old student leader Anatole Nnang Mezui. “They want to keep ruling us just like their fathers did. It’s a small elite that’s going to rule over the masses.”

3/12/2014 update: Feds investigating UO donor Ali Bongo over suitcases of cash

According to the Wall Street Journal, US Homeland Security agents intercepted a $150,000 cash payment from noted UO donor and Gabonese President for Life Ali Bongo, headed to his former wife in LA.

There are some interesting quotes from retired Ambassador Eric Benjaminson, now employed by UO, and paid out of the $20M gift to UO from Bongo. A gift which Benjaminson and UO fundraiser John Manotti arranged while Benjaminson was US Ambassador to Gabon, despite US State department conflict of interest rules.

More on the gift, the RG editorials asking for some transparency from UO, and pro-Bongo comments from UO officials below. But here’s the WSJ story:

U.S. Probes Fund Flows From Gabon

Investigators Hunt Assets Linked to African Country’s President, Family

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U.S. authorities are investigating the flow of funds from Gabon to the U.S. to determine whether any assets are traceable to public corruption in the central African country, according to a law-enforcement document and people familiar with the matter. …

As part of a broader effort to address possible foreign graft, Homeland Security agents and Justice Department prosecutors have searched for assets in the U.S. linked to Gabonese President Ali Bongo and his family, as well as his chief of staff, Maixent Accrombessi, these people said. Prosecutors could seek to seize assets they believe are ill-gotten. …

In 2011, Mr. Bongo asked the U.S. Treasury for help training Gabonese auditors to investigate corruption there, said Eric Benjaminson, then U.S. ambassador.

That same year, Mr. Bongo had 50-minute a conversation with Mr. Obama in the White House in which the U.S. leader expressed his desire for the Gabonese to increase anticorruption efforts, said Mr. Benjaminson, who was in the room. Mr. Bongo agreed, but said he faced challenges in uprooting a long tradition of corruption in the country, said Mr. Benjaminson …

1/26/2014: UO architecture professor Mark Gillem defends work in Gabon

His RG Op-Ed describes UO’s work and paints a picture of reform. No mention of Eric Benjaminson or the controversial events leading to his appointment by UO to run the program that, as US Ambassador, he had encouraged the Ali Bongo government to fund. Bongo’s family is accused of skimming as much as 25% of Gabon’s oil revenue for person use, and is being investigated by the French government for corruption related to real estate purchases. The $20M UO fund has several million set aside for publicity, I’m not sure how that is now being spent. There has still been no public response from Benjaminson to the questions raised in the Jan 13 RG editorial below.

Meanwhile, Gillem’s “reformist son of the former president” quote in the op-ed is convenient thinking, but apparently not true. In 2005, under the notoriously corrupt father Omar Bongo, Transparency International’s “Corruption Perceptions Index” ranked Gabon as the 88th most corrupt of 159 countries ranked or at the 55th percentile, with 100th being most corrupt. In 2013, 4 years after the “reformist son” Ali Bongo Ondimba took power, corruption has actually increased (relative to the rest of the world) and Gabon has fallen to the 60th percentile. http://cpi.transparency.org

1/13/2014: Register Guard raises questions about Benjaminson hire for Gabon job

Today the RG editors followed up on their 2011 editorial on the secretive UO Gabon deal with new questions, related to the hiring of former ambassador Eric Benjaminson:

… But Gabon must also break the pattern of kleptocracy and authoritarian rule that has kept most of its people poor and powerless — a pattern established by the first President Bongo, and which shows some signs of being continued by his son. And here is where concerns about Benjaminson’s leadership arise: The UO must help Gabon chart a new course rather than legitimizing and assisting in a continuation of the old one. But the UO center, dependent on Gabonese funds and headed by a director with close ties to Gabon’s rulers, may be disinclined to challenge the status quo.

Benjaminson knows Gabon, and he knows the UO — a hard-to-find combination of qualifications. Here’s hoping they are placed in service of an intellectually and politically independent center working for the interests of all Gabonese, while also providing opportunities for UO students and faculty, even if it means parting company with President Bongo now and then. Indeed, an occasional howl of protest from the $800 million presidential palace in Libreville would be greatly reassuring.

1/6/2014: UO uses Gabon money to hire Ambassador Eric Benjaminson

Back in 2011, while serving as US ambassador to Gabon, UO alum and career foreign service officer Eric Benjaminson helped arrange a $20M donation from the notoriously corrupt government of Ali Bongo Ondimba to UO, for student exchanges and green development projects. The RG wrote this Op-Ed criticizing the secrecy of this deal:

Engage, don’t enable: The UO’s partnership with Gabon needs monitoring

Gabon has two faces — one that shows promise, another that shows authoritarianism and corruption. In their new partnership with the west African nation, the University of Oregon and its sister institutions must ensure that their resources and expertise promote the emergence of the first rather than providing a mask for the second.

Benjaminson retired as ambassador 6 months ago, and moved to Eugene. Now UO has hired him to manage the project. The job ad is here, closed 10/31, salary $80-$90K.

The potential for conflict between the foreign policy interests of the United States and the personal interests of the ambassador in this arrangement seem obvious. I’m amazed US law allows it. But the Gabonese opposition to Bongo doesn’t seem surprised. Their post on Le Gabon Enervant blog cites wikileaks cables to explain how Benjaminson took a pro-Bongo stance in disputed elections, and raises questions of a quid pro quo:

In the recent days, things have become even clearer for everybody as the University of Oregon just announced that Eric Benjaminson was “appointed” as the first executive director of the Gabon Oregon Transnational Research Center on Environment and Development. Let us recapitulate for a moment: Benjaminson secures funds from an African dictator, son of a dictator, who has stolen elections and killed people in the process, for the creation of some Center based at his Alma mater; then once he leaves the diplomatic corps, the same Benjaminson is miraculously appointed to lead the bogus center he helped established by the money extorted to the Gabonese people. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? Besides, since when is Eric Benjaminson an expert on the environment or on development? The only thing he distinguished himself at doing while in Gabon, was to embarrass the great nation that is the United States.

 Our next post would examine why this appointment is not only a conflict of interest but also an evidence of corruption, of a quid pro quo!

This letter is also worth reading: http://gabonenervant.blogspot.com/2013/03/an-open-letter-to-eric-d-banjaminson.html

Tranegram: Galvan and Freinkel

Galvan confirmed as permanent Ambassador to Gabon, Freinkel as VP for UGS. Nothing yet on HC Dean.

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost - University of Oregon

7-17-13 Interim Provost’s Message

July 17, 2013 • PROVOST’S WEBSITE • FORWARD THIS EMAIL

Scott ColtraneScott Coltrane
Colleagues,
As I step into my new role as Interim Senior Vice President and Provost, I am delighted to announce the appointments of Dennis Galvan as Vice Provost for International Affairs and Lisa Freinkel as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies.  Both Dennis and Lisa were appointed through internal searches.
Dennis Galvan, a professor of Political Science and International Studies, served the UO as Vice Provost for International Affairs for the past 18 months in an interim capacity and has now been named to a regular appointment. Dennis has been at the UO since 2001. He was the director and department head of International Studies from 2005-09, chair of the African Studies Committee from 2004-08 and director of the Ethnic Studies Program from 2003-04. He has done extensive fieldwork in West Africa, especially Senegal, and in Central Java, Indonesia. He was a Fulbright Fellow in Senegal from 2009-10.
Dennis is also the co-founder and co-director of the Global Oregon Initiative, which will form the core of the new Global Studies Institute within the Office of International Affairs. I am certain that Dennis’s extensive background and research in international affairs will help the UO to expand its global outreach.
Lisa Myobun Freinkel is an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature and has served as head of Comparative Literature since 2004. She has been at the UO since 1995. Her innovation in teaching has been recognized with both an Ersted award and a Williams Fellowship. Lisa created Comparative Literature’s “translation pedagogy” program in 2005. Her current research explores the notions of “mind” and “mindfulness” in liberal education.
Lisa’s publications include Reading Shakespeare’s Will: The Theology of Figure from Augustine to the Sonnets, and articles on a variety of topics including Kantian critique, psychoanalysis and early modern encounters with Buddhist Asia. Lisa’s impressive credentials and proven track record will help raise the bar for all UO instruction.
Please join me in congratulating Dennis and Lisa on their appointments.
Regards,
Scott
Scott Coltrane
Interim Senior Vice President and Provost
University of Oregon
provost@uoregon.edu
Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your browser.
The University of Oregon is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Galvan to explain Gabon

5/16/2013: Dear colleagues:

I invite you to a presentation by Dr. Dennis Galvan, who is a finalist for the position of Vice Provost for International Affairs. Dr. Galvan’s application materials (letter and cv) will be available for your review on Monday, May 20,  at http://provost.uoregon.edu/content/vice-provost-international-affairs-finalists. He will give his public presentation on Thursday, May 23, from 3:30-5:00 in the Oak Room at the EMU. A survey for providing feedback to the Provost on this candidate will also be available at the link mentioned above. Please join me and the search committee at this important event.
Yours,
Barbara Altmann
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Search update, Françafrique update, UO gets $20 million for Gabon greenwashing?

Update: Berdahl appointed Dennis Galvan as interim VPIA last year. For a while it looked like Pres Gottfredson was going to give him the permanent job without a search, but to his credit he seems to be conducting a thorough search for other potential internal candidates, in accordance with Senate legislation:

Dear Colleagues:

This is to announce that we have extended the original application period for the position of Vice Provost for International Affairs.

The new deadline for applications is Friday, May 24.  While the original announcement was available on the HR website and was sent to Deans, Directors, and Department Heads, it has come to our attention that that email distribution to faculty was not uniform across campus, so that some of you did not have a chance to consider applying for the position.

Please accept our apologies for this oversight.

Robert Haskett
Head of the Selection Committee

5/1/2012: Maybe the French investigators are closing in on Ali Bongo-Ondimba? The agreement with Gabon called for them to send UO a $5 million downpayment on the “Twin Edens” project by 12/31/2012, or as they say in French, 31/12/2012.

But UO’s Public Records Office reports there’s no money yet.

Financial records
Requester: Gouahinga. Francois
Initial Request Date: 04/23/2013 

Status: No Responsive Records
Request Completion Date: 04/23/2013 

I wish hereby to request records related to the transfer of financial resources, including electronic banking receipts, from the government of Gabon to the University of Oregon and its subentities such as the UO Foundation. Please limit your search from January 2012 to present.

Meanwhile Dennis Galvan has posted a response to a petition from Gabonese students opposing the deal, here.

11/19/2012: Call me a skeptic, but this agreement between UO and Gabon seems to be more about buying some goodwill for the kleptocratic government of Ali Bongo Ondimba than about helping his country’s people. $650,000 for advertising what, exactly? $200,000 to listen to Al Gore, Prince Charles, or Bono? Tough choice.

I asked Interim Vice Provost for International Affairs Dennis Galvan for this report a few weeks ago – never got a response. His office does have a very fluffy post about UO and Gabon, here, and eventually they posted the doc. Galvan was appointed as Interim, but that seems to have quietly morphed into the usual JH “Vice Provost for Life” job, without faculty review. I like Dennis, but this is just wrong.

Meanwhile, from the 2010 US Senate report on international corruption. From all accounts this sort of thing has continued since Omar Bongo’s son Ali was elected President, and the new French government has refused to go along with any more of it. 

UO’s Treetops mansion searched in graft probe

2/24/13. Whoops, sorry, actually that story is about one of the many villas belonging to the Bongo Ondimba family, who recently gave $20 million in Gabonese money to UO for a greenwashing program. The latest story about Treetops and departing OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner is in the RG, here:

Interim Oregon higher education chancellor Melody Rose says she’s not going to live in the official chancellor’s home in Eugene, an 8,111-square-foot, 1911 mansion in the Fairmount neighborhood known as Treetops. 

That puts the future of the problematic property in doubt. 

The property presents a conundrum for the chancellor’s office because, when a merchant donated the property to the state in 1938, it was with the stipulation that the chancellor or the University of Oregon president live there. The state pays upward of $50,000 annually to maintain the residence, and in some years has spent tens of thousands of dollars more on repairs.

The Audits Division recently decided to let Pernsteiner keep the $23,200 a year in “professional expenses” money he’d been pocketing as an add-on to his $294,000 salary:

On MondayFeb 11, 2013, at 4:22 PM, “BOND, V Dale” wrote: 

[UO Matters]:
After consideration of the information you provided regarding professional expenses included in Chancellor Pernsteiner’s 2009-2012 contract, we have decided not to pursue the questions you raised. The expenses were treated as salary and taxed.

Sincerely,

V. Dale Bond, CPA, CISA, CFEAudit ManagerSecretary of State Audits Division
255 Capitol St. NE, Suite 500
Salem, OR 97310
503-986-2351
v.dale.bond@state.or.us
If you know of or suspect any fraud, waste, or abuse affecting Oregon state funds or resources, call 1.800.336.8218.Professional operators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or report online at  http://fraud.oregon.gov. Any person reporting such acts shall remain anonymous (ORS 177.180).

And the Lane County voter registrar decided not to pursue voter fraud charges against him, for now:

From: BETSCHART Cheryl L
Subject: RE: investigation of George Pernsteiner voting residenceDate: February 15, 2013 2:58:14 PM PST
Cc: “BAYES, Brenda J (brenda.j.bayes@state.or.us)”
[UO Matters],
You have requested that Lane County Elections investigate whether George Pernsteiner meets Oregon residency requirements for voting purposes based on the contents of a Separation and Resignation Agreement. I do not find sufficient evidence to challenge his residency at this time. If you have additional documented evidence that shows that Mr. Pernsteiner is no longer in compliance with the residency guidelines outlined in ORS 247.035, please forward those to me for consideration.

Cheryl BetschartLane County Clerk275 W. 10th Avenue, Eugene OR 97401(541) 682-4328 – Fax (541) 682-2303cheryl.betschart@co.lane.or.us

And Diane Dietz has a piece in the RG about the new Chancellor, here.

Shame on U of Oregon, Citoyens!

I try to keep this blog focused on sleazy administrators, football scams, and transparency. But every now and then something a bit more consequential comes up. From the comments on a UO Gabon post:

Citoyen Libre Gabon Sunday, 02 December, 2012 

University of Oregon just accepted a gift of $20M from Gabon! As a gabonese citizen, this is a shameful decision by a university in the US profiting from poor people of Gabon. In my country, infants die for anecdotal deseases and women still give birth on the floor because the kelptocratic, corrupt and dictatorial president in power is robbing the country! How can a state university in the US accept to deal with crooks? How can money be so more important than people? The US is supporting a dictator that people of Gabon never elected; a man who imposed himself as president with support of France and US (in some extend). 

This an insult to the people of Gabon struggling for justice and democracy and also to survive, even if their country is rich with all sort of natural resources. U of Oregon students should ask their leaders to give them answers about why they are dealing with a dictator from Gabon! 

Again, shame on U of Oregon!

And read the comments here. I’ve asked President Gottfredson and UO’s Interim VP for Academic Affairs Dennis Galvan, who helped negotiate the Gabon deal under Lariviere, if they care to respond. I’ll post it here if they do.

Our university now has a foreign policy. And I don’t think it’s one that would have made Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, Woody Guthrie, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or Bill Clinton proud. Nixon and Kissinger would have loved it though. 12/2/2012.

Gottfredson rejects bottled water ban

11/19/2012 video from camera 4 in our Johnson Hall surveillance system:

I’m no environmental economist, but I think a pigouvian tax on the bottles (like the EMU does with coffee cups) would be the efficient solution. But a ban seems like good second best policy. For reasons I don’t understand Gottfredson has rejected it – presumably someone has the contract to sell this stuff on campus? Letter from the students:

Full letter here. Maybe the Climate Justice League will turn its attention to the Gabon greenwashing deal next.

Who the hell gives Bean an A?

I see there are two of you. Please put your grading policy in the comments. Today’s Beangram takes green-washing to a new level: Sure, Gabon’s a corrupt one party kleptocracy – but it’s sustainable!

Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost
Message for November 9, 2012
Colleagues:
We are pleased that a UO delegation went to Gabon last week to formalize an agreement allowing for unprecedented academic research opportunities for UO faculty. The delegation, which included Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Vice Provost for International Affairs Dennis Galvan, Jay Namyet of the UO Foundation and John Manotti of UO Development, signed an agreement that lays out the operational details of a new Gabon-Oregon Transnational Research Center on Environment and Development.
The agreement was approved by the Gabonese National Assembly and will be administered on the Gabonese side by the ministry of higher education. It was signed by Alex-Assensoh and by Gabon’s minister of higher education.
Faculty provided input on the formation of the agreement and included a provision that allows the UO to restructure the terms if material changes occur in the future.
This faculty-driven program will be coordinated through Global Oregon, one of the UO’s Big Ideas, and will focus on sustainable practices in many academic areas. At least 20 faculty from UO and other institutions around the state have already expressed interest in research and outreach projects under the new center. Shortly after the anticipated launch of the center in 2013, all faculty will receive information on how to apply for seed grants and other funds to support research, programming and outreach on sustainable development-related topics.
Projects funded under the center will emphasize partnerships with Gabonese colleagues and will focus on a wide range of environmental, natural resource, conservation, health, socio-economic, cultural and educational areas. The Center will foster research and outreach that touches on the sustainability challenges and opportunities of Gabon, and through comparative analysis, of societies that are facing or have dealt with similar issues.
Congratulations to all who worked hard to forge this agreement that will enhance the UO’s research mission.  Read more about the agreement here.
I welcome questions or comments at provost@uoregon.edu
Regards,
Jim

UO ally Gabon drops French over corruption investigation

10/14/2012: Longtime readers may recall the bizarre alliance between Richard Lariviere and Ali Bongo Ondimba, the “President” of Gabon. UO was supposed to get $20 million from Gabon – Dennis Galvan helped set this up and is now in charge. The latest from Gabon is that Bongo has decided overnight to switch the national language to English, in a fit of pique at the new French government’s efforts to investigate what he’s been buying with the money he’s been stealing from his people:

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba — like his father, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba, who served as the country’s president from 1967 to 2009 — has been accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the nation’s treasury to purchase luxury items for himself and his family. Looking into Bongo family’s assets, French investigators said they have uncovered “the cave of Ali Baba,” including a portfolio of 33 luxury properties and 70 different bank accounts.

Ali Bongo seeks new butler

5/13/2012: The latest from UO’s “Twin Eden”, Gabon:

From the Scottish Sun: Rich man, poor nation

Poverty-stricken Gabon’s head of state Ali Bongo has asked a Glasgow recruitment agency to find him a live-in manservant for the mansion he shares with his wife. …
PRESIDENT Ali Bongo is among the world’s most controversial leaders.
Oil-rich Gabon has a population of 1.5million, most living in ramshackle huts on an average wage of less than £10 a day.

But besides his 18th century Paris mansion, dad-of-four Bongo owns 30 other plush properties in France and another three homes in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

Meanwhile the RG has been trying to get copies of UO’s latest contracts with Gabon from Randy Geller for three weeks now.

UO and Gabon: Twin Edens

2/6/2012: From the Guardian:

In an unprecedented move, three serving African leaders and their families are under investigation in Paris over whether they embezzled state funds to acquire vast assets in France including bank accounts, Riviera villas and fleets of luxury cars.

The clan of Gabon‘s late leader Omar Bongo and its current leader, his son Ali Bongo; the Congo-Brazzaville leader, Denis Sassou-Nguesso and his family, and President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and his clan are accused of having assets worth €160m in France, from penthouses and villas to scores of bank accounts and luxury car fleets. 

Qaddafi and the LSE, Bongo and UO

10/30/2011: Many of the comments on the appointment of Dennis Galvan as VP for IA are somewhat supportive. I don’t trust Dennis Galvan because of the way he handled the deal between UO and Gabon this summer.

Galvan and Lariviere signed UO to a deal with Gabon based on some pap about sustainability and “Twin Edens” without any public discussion. Then they refused to share documents on the deal until I went to Attorney General Kroger. Then they only sent me part of the agreement. Dennis wouldn’t answer questions. I had to go back to get the rest – which was substantially different than what is described in the press release. What a surprise. I suppose I should be glad that UO’s President didn’t retaliate against me for sticking my nose into his business, or send some big guys to knock on my door. It’s all the same though – you will stop asking so many questions, Professor.

What’s not to like about a secret deal with a famously corrupt government? It’s not like this is Libya. Well, actually ….

Reuters has a long story here on the repercussions and lawsuits coming out of the London School of Economics’s secret agreements with Libya. And here’s a link to a fascinating interview with Ali Bongo, – within days of the UO ceremony, and apparently done as a requirement of his meeting with President Obama. Question #1 is about his ties to Qaddafi. He looks like he is going to have the reporter taken out and shot – then he remembers he’s sitting in Blair House, being videotaped, and that the reporter is from VOA. In the end he gives a remarkably credible answer:

In all fairness to Lariviere and Galvan, the US State department now says Ali Bongo is apparently shaping up to be a reformer, and better than you’d expect for a defacto President for Life with dictatorial powers. But remember when Condoleezza Rice said that about Gaddafi? Whoops. Here’s a more credible ABC news report on Ali Bongo: Grand Theft Nation

There are lots of places around the world were you can’t ask questions. I don’t think a US university – my university – should be one of them. Tempting offers like the one Galvan went for in Gabon are going to come up all the time. Bad regimes want to buy legitimacy, and universities like ours still have some available. Look for example at the PRC Confucius Institutes. So what’s Galvan going to do next time? Given the way his appointment was handled, the faculty didn’t even get a chance to ask him that question. What a lesson for UO to be teaching the students of Gabon. At least I’m sure we won’t be the first people to kill off a bit of their idealism.