Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tear Gas & Corruption in Gabon?

I have been out of Gabon for some time and I was just catching up on some recent news...

Police Use Tear Gas to Break up Gabon Protest
Gabon Opposition Leader Seeks UN Refuge

What?  Are you kidding me??? 

Apparently, the man who placed 3rd in the 2009 Presidential election in Gabon, Andre Mba Obame, declared himself to be the "true" president of Gabon.  He even announced a new cabinet.  He did this on January 26, 2011, a year and 1/2 after Presidential elections.

Wait a minute, what/how?

He made the announcement from his privately owned TV station, after which he proceded to the UN for refuge.  It has been reported that Mba Obame's intentions have been inspired by recent events in Tunisia and the Ivory Coast.  Tunsia's President was recently ousted and the UN is currently guarding the internationally recognised president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, whose rivals have refused to cede power after contentious elections.

The Gabonese elections in 2009 were under much scrutiny due to assumptions of corruption and rigging.  This was further exacerbated by the fact that the current President, Ali Bongo Odimba succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, who ran the country for 42 years.

The results of the election were as follows:
Ali Bongo  41.79%
Pierre Mamboundou  25.66%
Andre Mba Obame  25.33%

Mba Obame had always claimed that he had lost the election due to rigging at the ballots.  However, the elections had been monitored by international observers, including us at the US Embassy.

Here are my personal observations...

Was there ballot rigging?  No.  Is there political corruption?  Yes, of course there is.  Corruption exists at various levels in ALL countries, including western democracies.  

After speaking with locals regarding the election in Aug 2009, it was apparent that all parties were out on the street buying votes; including Mba Obame's party.  I don't think it would have made a difference, but clearly he didn't buy enough, or didn't have the prescience to combine his efforts with the 3rd political party.

Ali Bongo has already received broad international recognition as the President of Gabon and he has made a tremendous effort to clean up corruption.  

During the election, I was cynical of the hundreds of posters and billboards advertising his campaign, but after the election, messaging on those same billboards were immediately changed to a note of thank you and a promise of change...I was very impressed.

After a few months in office, President Bongo cut the # of ministers in half.  The assignment of ministries is an African syndrome.  It's a simple way of rewarding supporters and appeasing opposition by "spreading the wealth", doleing out opportunities for power and a piece of the pie.

In the spirit of transparency, President Bongo also had the civil service audited.  There was rumor that 3000 salaried "employees" were eliminated from the system since they had actually passed away years ago, b ut were still being paid.

He also continues to make in roads towards diversifying the economy and I applaud all of his efforts.

Mba Obame is apparently under investigation for violating the countries consititution and commiting acts of high treason...and of course his TV station is no longer broadcasting.

1 comment:

  1. This person's comments seem pertinent and remarkably accurate. I know several people who do business in Gabon: like him, they are impressed with the changes introduced since the 2009 election. This new guy's a force for good, no doubt about it.

    Is the opposition credible and was the election stolen like they claim? The answer is: not very, and no. None of the oppositionists stand out in any way: they're just sore they lost. And none of the two dozen or so election observers serious believed that any vote-rigging went on. If it did, they missed it, and it cannot have made much difference anyway to the end result. Anyway, I say thank Heavens this new president was the winner: he is the real deal - a good guy, AND with a conscience.