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September 2009

Gabon's government becomes a Dynasty

Deceased Bongo’s Son Becomes New President Amidst Protests

Gabon’s new President, Ali Ben Bongo, son of the deceased president
Gabon’s new President, Ali Ben Bongo,
son of deceased president, Omar Bongo,
Libreville, August, 2009

By Lylian Fotabong

The capital city of Gabon, Libreville, came to a standstill when deceased ex-president’s son and former Defence Minister of Gabon, Ali Ondimba Bongo of the Gabonese Democratic Party, was elected President of the onetime French colony amidst huge protests. Nothing prepared the government security forces, however, for what was to follow- vast unrest.

Scenes of anarchy tore and rummaged the streets, from the industrial city of Port Gentil, and gradually disseminated into the heavily guarded capital, Libreville, where it is said to have witnessed less hostility. But at least two people have been reported dead and several others seriously wounded and left fighting for their lives in an onslaught between protesters and security forces.

Other reports showed atrocious upheavals by opposition looters attacking French interests in the capital city and elsewhere in the country, notably, the French Consulate, Total Fuel Stations because of what they fear is a dynasty style rule and influenced by the French government that “was” their colonial master.

Unconfirmed reports also say prison centres were broken into and prisoners were set free. This then followed an ambush on businesses where shops were looted and sales assistants threatened and beaten, and many people forced to flee the urban areas for the rural areas where there are reports of less brutality.

Opposition parties claim that after the death of Dictator Omar Bongo in Spain, June, the French government fixed the polls so that it could enable Ali Bongo, son of the former dictator, into power; he could serve as a replacement of their close ally and authoritarian partner. The oppositions also claim that the French want to continue to have easy access into the seriously rich oil country and so manipulated the elections to suit a scheming and dictatorial regime. There are now fears of some opposition leaders in profound danger and some are said to have been injured and reportedly gone into hiding, including opposition party’s UPG’s Pierre Momboundou.

The mayhem came even before the new president of Gabon was elected as the next president of Gabon following the death of his father, the longest serving African dictator and world ruler ever, Omar Bongo.

The protesters are calling for a change in the government that saw the election of the son of the one time dictator taking over the realm of power in the same country that his father ruled with stiff and iron hands for forty-one years.

About twenty three candidates contested the presidential election and mistakes in the results saw the top three candidates all declared winners, before the Constitutional Court, under Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo, an appointee of Late President Omar Bongo, later confirmed, Friday, Ali Bongo Ondimba to be the winner of the presidential race, having received 41.9 percent votes. He was followed by Independent candidate, Andre Mba Obame with 25.88 percent and the opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou with 25.22 percent of the votes.

About three hundred observers were employed to the three thousand polling stations to oversee the elections, including teams from the African Union, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and a global grouping of francophone countries. Some critics have called this election one of the "most open" and fair presidential elections ever in Gabon, after all, there has never been a democracy in Gabon, like in most parts of Africa.

Speaking on Al Jazeera, Senegalese based African Analyst Adama Gaye, said that the election was likely to be the most open in Gabon’s history. "President Bongo was not just Africa’s longest-serving president, but also the world’s longest-serving president" he said.

"Because of his really high stature and financial muscle the elections were usually a foregone conclusion and there was also support from the French authorities to ensure he won," Mr. Gaye added.

The French government has, however, refused any interference or involvement in the election and insisting that the 1,000 French soldiers based in Gabon, are on alert to evacuate the 10,000 French nationals living in Gabon if needed.

Gabon has a population of fewer than two million and is Sub- Saharan Africa’s fourth biggest producer of oil, the world’s third provider of manganese and Africa’s second largest wood exporter. Nevertheless, sixty percent of the country continues to live in dearth and below the poverty line.

Elected to the highest position in the country, President Ali Bongo has promised the Gabonese of numerous changes: a fairer distribution of the country’s natural resources, peace, development and equality, educational reforms, improvement of professional training and to never interfere with the Senate and the National Assembly.

Most importantly, he said that he will not remain in power for ever. “If the Gabonese place the trust in me and elect me to the head of state, I certainly will not stay 40 years, rest assured,” hereby confirming that his father, Omar Bongo, stayed in power for ever.

Ali Bongo has refuted any foul play in the elections and warned politicians of their utterances: "Politicians should be careful with their words and act calmly," and that, opposition leaders that want to contest the results could do so "through the proper channels" because Gabon, he said, is a "nation of laws and calm must return to the entire territory."

The fifty-year-old President was dismissed as Minister of National Defence in August 15th, 2009 so that he could contest on a “balance” with other contestants in the presidential race. He will now serve the country for seven years, as the constitution provides for a seven year term in office.

Mr. Bongo is the eldest child of late President, Omar Bongo, who died in Spain in June and who had, ironically, been seen as the Father of the Nation.

Omar Bongo, before his death, was one of the most controversial and corrupt leaders, amassing wealth from the country’s oil. It is reported that he owned 45 homes in France and more than a dozen luxury cars, including a Bugatti worth $1.5 million which was paid for with a check from the Gabonese treasury.

The new president has witnessed his first defeat, already, following the World Cup qualifying match, Saturday, in which Gabon lost to Cameroon, 2-0. It is now hoped that President Bongo will not stay in power for 41 years and that he will not continue to amass the wealth of the nation for his personal benefits and most prominently, that he will not continue to make the Gabonese regime a monarchy while living the small country with nothing.

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