News of the presidential victory of Mr. Ali Bongo, son of Late Gabon president, Omar Bongo, as new leader of Gabon, came as little surprise to many who were convinced that government of the people, by the people and for the people was still an illusion in many African countries, especially in Gabon. As expected, the Bongo dynasty has now been established to the rage and lamentations of a people hungry for democracy. Critics insist that the already increasing problematic of electoral democracy in africa has been taken to another level, electoral dynasty.
Like in many African countries, critics have said that the poll, held on the death of late Omar Bongo who ruled the oil-rich country for 41 years, was fixed and decided even before it began. “This is an electoral coup d’etat. I do not recognize the election results. It is me who won,” One of the defeated candidates, Mr. Mba Obame, was quoted as saying. Mr. Obame, who came second in the polls added that he was in fact the winner of the polls.
The disputed outcome of the elections has led to break down in state civility. Supporter’s of the anti-Bongo dynasty stormed a jail, freeing its inmates; and rampaging through the streets and setting streets on fire. The defeated candidates of the opposition instigated riots and protests around the capital city of Libreville and other major cities, with French alliances as major targets of destruction.
The French consulate in Libreville was set on fire and in another city, protesters attacked installations belonging to the French oil company. However measures have been put in place to protect French citizens. There are currently about 1,000 French troops stationed in the country to maintain civility. Head of French diplomacy, Bernard Kouchner, has assured French nationals that a “device” is in place “ready to protect” them should the need arise. French residents in the country have already, reportedly, gathered at the French military base in Port-Gentil. The number of French people living in Gabon is estimated at about 10 000.
While police used tear gas and batons to disperse protestors from the streets of Libreville, and while Gabonese lament from the confinement of their homes, following a night-time curfew declared across the city in the wake of the unrest, newly elected president, Ali Bongo claimed he would unify Gabon: “As far as I am concerned, I am and I will always be the president of all the people of Gabon. I am and I will always be at the service of all, without exclusion,” Ali Bongo said in his victory speech.
Electoral dynasty or electoral dynasty?
Despite what Ali Bongo had to say after he took over from his late father, who died in June, observers would argue that an electoral dynasty has been established. Ali Bongo inherits his father’s office through the ballot box. Omar Bongo Ondimba died as one of the world’s richest men. Wednesday, the president of the Cenap Rene Aboghé Ella, declared on state television RTG1 that there was “some difficulty agreeing on how to validate the results” as some observers within the Electoral Commission refused to validate the results presented. A 48 hour delay in the release of the results had fuelled controversy over ballot manipulation.
Messrs. Mba Obame and Mamboundou, main pposition leaders, said it was an “electoral hold-up.”
Gabon is sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth biggest oil producer, Africa’s second biggest wood exporter, and a rich wealth of manganese, and uranium; but most of its 1.4 million people continue to live in poverty even as the Bongo dynasty lives on. The election, many believe, consolidates the growing trend of electoral democracies in Africa, whereby politicians manipulate the ballot box to justify their hold on power irrespective of public opinion or constitutional provisions. This is done to avoid being tagged as dictators. The African Union (AU) indicated that some “irregularities” and “shortcomings” had occured during the electoral exercise.
Ali Bongo, meanwhile, is duty-bound to diversify the country away from oil, whose earnings have been decreasing, and manage regional tensions that persist over three small islands in oil-rich off-shore waters claimed by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.