Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: “I am afraid for Gabon”

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Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou is the presidential candidate for the Social Democratic Party [PSD] ahead of the pending Gabonese election, scheduled for August 30. Until last week, when he resigned as Minister of Technical Education in Paul Mba Biyoghe’s interim Government, the opposition had strongly criticized both Mr. Moussavou and Ali Bongo Ondimba, Minister of Defence, for remaining in office whilst running for president. During his visit to Paris last week, Mr. Moussavi unveiled his program to the international press as well as the Gabonese Diaspora.

“I have been nicknamed the herdsman of Moutasso!” Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou said in front of an audience made up of journalists and members of the Gabonese Diaspora, at the Press Club de France in Paris. At Mouila, the provincial capital of Ngounié where he was born, he is a powerful man. Member of parliament and owner of an enormous ranch on which cattle, pigs and fish are reared, he is the region’s strongman. His numerous ministerial positions have strengthened this reputation. His résumé is rather impressive; PhD in international economic relations, Inspector General of Finance, former economic and financial adviser, administrator of funds to the IMF… His nominations to head several government departments started from the mid-90s under President Omar Bongo Ondimba. The ministries include; Planning, Agriculture, Transport, Civil Aviation and Tourism. He has, however, never joined the majority and ruling Gabonese Democratic Party [PDG]. Founder of the Social Democratic Party [PSD] in 1990, his presidential intentions were made known in 1993 and later in 1998 when he took part in the presidential elections. This year, he has decided to run for president again. Talking about his career and plans for Gabon, and also taking a dig at his fellow presidential mates, beginning with those he encountered in the powerful corridors of state ministries, he accorded us an interview.

 Afrik-news.com: You were a member of the government out of which numerous presidential candidates have emerged. Why did you decide to run for president? What makes you different from the 22 other contenders?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: I could simply say that it is because I have a better program and I am the best suited for the job. But to take things more seriously, I would say that it is because I am a man who did not just pop out of the woodwork. When you take a look at the other presidential candidates, you would realise that I am the best prepared. I have worked with the national strategic department, I have built roads, bridges, I worked on the development of Mouila, the best-equipped and most beautiful city of Gabon… I am also at the beck and call of the population, a quality that the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba particularly appreciated. And I have a solid program.

 Afrik-news.com: What are the highlights of this program?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: The ethics of development, creating a real economy, roads, education, health, population and social well being… I believe in the establishment of a pronatalist policy. I want to support the principle of large families and establish a housing policy. We must achieve a 5 million population target to give our economy the opportunity to grow [2005 census: 1.4 million inhabitants in Gabon, ed]. Gabonese should be encouraged to have more children and the number of health facilities should be increased to go hand in hand with this objective… Another important aspect of my program is the establishment of a policy of provincialization to deal with the general Gabonese argument that the president should come from a particular province. I pledge to spend 20 billion [francs CFA] per province per year so as to make sure that no province is superior to another, thereby ensuring that the sense of belonging linked to a particular city, village or group is discontinued.

 Afrik-news.com: In Gabon, the sense of regional and ethnic belonging is very strong. Some people believe that to become President of the Republic one must be Batéké or Fang. Some also argue that after Omar Bongo’s reign, it is the turn of the Fang to return to power. Although you are Punu…

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: Is the Téké group high in numbers? No. As far as the Fang are concerned, they are not as many as they claim. On the other hand, the Fang group is not as homogeneous as one may believe. The Punu belong to the Meri ethnic group. The Meri are numerous. Nevertheless, Fang, Téké and Meri are all part of Gabon, and like all Gabonese citizens they can all run for President, not based on ethno-linguistic lines. I have always refused to be part of this type of reasoning. I am proud to be from the capital of Ngounié, but above all, I think one must first be proud to be Gabonese. The idea that the Gabonese must necessarily be assured by a member of their own ethnicity must be dealt away with. The fact that we still speak of these issues is proof that Omar Bongo failed on this point.

 Afrik-news.com: In your program you state that you want to “build a real economy.” What do you mean by that?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: Gabon’s economy is not an economy. It is an economy based on harvest revenue. How do we explain the fact that those numerous Gabonese trained outside have no hope of finding work in Gabon? It is necessary to build a real economy that creates more wealth and jobs.

 Afrik-news.com: You are one of two minister cum presidential candidates whose presence in government has been strongly criticized in recent weeks. You resigned from the government on the 6th of August, Ali Bongo Ondimba is still in office. Do you think he should resign, although the Constitution does not oblige him to?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: I resigned because of ethics. The question should not be why Ali Bongo Ondimba does not want to resign from office, but rather, should the president, who cannot be a candidate, entertain presidential candidates in a government which is involved in the preparation of a free and fair election? Government members should not be candidates. Although this is not written in the Constitution, it is obvious in its interpretation.

 Afrik-news.com: Last Sunday, two presidential candidates and former minsters, Jean Eyeghe Ndong and André Mba Obame, were prevented from flying to Paris. The reason given by the authorities was that they were in possession of diplomatic passports, which no longer corresponded to their current status although they remain MPs. You were also a Minister until last week. How did you travel?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: I asked the president of the National Assembly for a diplomatic passport. But the waiting period was too long. So the solution was to obtain an ordinary passport with a visa that allows me to travel throughout Europe… My case is different from Eyeghe Ndong and Mba Obame, who were members of the PDG and who left the government and their party to stand for the presidential election. However, I must admit that it was a retaliatory act [from the ruling PDG, ed].

 Afrik-news.com: Why so many candidates from the presidential majority?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: Explaining why the majority parties have as many candidates is tantamount to forgetting how many they were in past elections. However, the course taken by Eyeghe Ndong and Oyé Mba, who were members of the PDG and are now running against the candidate nominated by their own party, is unbecoming. The fact that they participated in the nomination process means they supported his appointment. But once beaten they decided to leave their party and stand as independent candidates. Their choice proves to all Gabonese they are men who do not stick to their commitments. Mba Obame, who left the PDG to run as an independent candidate, is even more surprising. Mba Obame is a bit of a spoiled child. With Ali [Bongo], they were, if I may say, like hand in glove. And both saw the ministries of Defence and Interior as their play things. Now they want to be president of the Republic …

 Afrik-news.com: Are you serene? Do you think that the election will be free and fair and without violence?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: I am serene. But I am also afraid for Gabon. Because I hear from here and there that the army could interrupt the electoral process. We must go through the process. And may the best man win!… The programs suggested by most of the candidates are not worth the trouble. They all propose an off-course system whereby provincial governors are viewed as next to nothing, mere information officers, despite the fact that he who is next to the fire is he who hears the noise from the cooking-pot. The solution is my proposed provincialization project.

 Afrik-news.com: You strongly criticize the other candidates and their programs. But you have worked with several governments. You took part in drawing and defending some of Omar Bongo’s policies…

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: I have a ranch on which I rare cattle, pigs, fish, I feed the people, I have constructed flats to accommodate teachers (…) There are people from the opposition, like Pierre Mamboundou, who criticize a lot, but who have also benefited from the largesse of power. The late President Omar Bongo Ondimba took himself for a village chief. He was not only generous with government officials, but also dished out allowances to the opposition.

 Afrik-news.com: What would be your first major step should you become President of Gabon?

Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou: The first step I would take, given the financial situation, would be to make the income of the state transparent, consolidate public finances, ensure that government positions linked to the national budget are no longer linked to individuals but to structures, double the index value and the minimum wage.

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