As the August 30 presidential election draws closer, residents of Libreville, capital of Gabon, have been moving en masse to the countryside. They are either leaving the capital to vote in areas where they are registered or simply to protect themselves.
In recent weeks, Libreville residents have been flocking en masse into the hinterland. Although there are talks of holidays, many among the travellers have the August 30 election on the back of their minds. “I’m off to my home village to vote for my candidate. I am registered to vote at Meudouneu (Department of Haut-Como, ed),” Paul Obiang, sitting in the back of an overloaded white van, said.
But if Paul Obiang’s only reason for leaving the city is simply to go and cast a secret vote in favour of his preferred presidential candidate, Evelyne begs to differ. According to the young student, she left the capital because, “the next Sunday election could prove dangerous… It is better to hide in one’s village away from military canons and political battles”.
In Libreville, those who have decided to stay during the polls have begun stocking up basic necessities.
The climate is a little sluggish ahead of the electoral exercise, the most disputed and open since the advent of multiparty politics in Gabon from the early 90s. To ease the stifling tension and put people at rest, messages of peace and solidarity have been upped on public television. The messages urge the Gabonese to preserve peace and national harmony.
Acting Head of State, Rose Francine Rogombé and Prime Minister Paul Mba Biyoghe have repeatedly reiterated that the elections should not be used as an opportunity to start fratricidal or family conflicts.
“Gabon should use this election to teach the world a wonderful lesson in democracy,” said a Gabonese politician, hoping that the political transition that began after the death of Omar Bongo, ends in peace.