illgottengainsOne white European president is battling three black African despots in what might be the world’s biggest attack on corruption ever seen. Fast cars, Bond’s jet yachts, secret logging of rainforest jungles and the plight of Africa democracy are all at stake.

President Francois Hollande is the first French leader to refuse the cozy, often illegal and until now mutually beneficial relationships French Presidents have developed with Francophone African leaders.

Moreover, he has given the nod to French prosecutors and judges to continue massive investigations into the “ill-gotten gains” by three corrupt African despots.

These ill-gotten gains game from former French presidents. They are the proceeds from business deals removed from regulation by presidential decree, from aid that intentionally required no accounting, and from outright illegal money laundering that former French presidents forbid prosecutors from pursuing. That was the French way.

Says Hollande: “Ça suffit!’

Endorsing the legal nit-picking that a number of progressive French NGOs have been doing for years (see one of the most prominent, Sherpa), Hollande has reversed French policy of nearly the last century.

France’s role in Africa has been huge. Twenty-three of Africa’s current 53 countries were French colonies (compared to only 18 for Great Britain) and the total 2010 per capita GDP in those countries is about a quarter greater than the former British colonies.

America tends to concentrate on the former British colonies like South Africa and Kenya, but France’s role especially in the big oil-producing countries has been huge.

For all the years since African independences in the 1960s and 1970s, French politicians have benefitted enormously from the growing wealth of their former colonies.

In direct contrast with the British, backroom deals and presidential waivers for regulation and other prosecution have developed an incorrigible relationship that has enormously increased corruption at the top, both in France and Africa.

That’s really changing, now.

Hollande is actively going after the “ill-gotten gains” of many African despots, and focused current attention on three: President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea and the now-deceased President Omar Bongo of Gabon.

There are others. But these three have enormous financial holdings in France, and there is a good chance the French government will now prevail in taking those back.

It is an enormously positive step for the French to have taken.

Bon chance, Hollande!