Roads tied to bushmeat hunting in Gabon
- Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com May 9, 2006
"A new study ties the presence of roads to bushmeat hunting in the
Congo rainforest (Gabon) and also raises important questions for
global conservation. The study, published in the current edition of
Conservation Biology, found roads and associated hunting pressure
reduced the abundance of a number of mammal species including
duikers, forest elephants, buffalo, red river hogs, lowland gorillas
and carnivores. The research suggests that even moderate hunting
pressure can significantly affect the structure of mammal communities
in central Africa.
The Conservation Biology study examined a 400 square mile area of
tropical rainforest in southwestern Gabon, of which 130 square
kilometers was the Rabi oil concession operated by the Shell-Gabon
Corporation since 1985. The area served as a good study site because
Shell's closely guarded and carefully regulated concession
effectively protects the forest from hunters and incursion by
outsiders. Such is not the case in the unprotected areas outside the
concession, where road density is higher and hunting and development
pressures are greater. By comparing mammal abundance and behavior
between the two areas, the researchers found that roads had the
greatest impact on large and small ungulates, causing important
changes in mammal community structure. Further, say the researchers,
hunting and roads may also altered the behavior of many species, with
wildlife outside the concession area possibly showing a higher
propensity to flee when confronted by humans.
The findings are significant because unlike previous studies in the
region which generally focused on only a single species, the
researchers were able to "quantitatively assess the relative effects
of roads and hunting (and their interaction) on different species and
guilds of mammals." More broadly, the scientists say that their work
has "both general and key local relevance, because the study area is
a potentially critical corridor between two recently designated
national parks in Gabon, and its future is far from secure." The
scientists explain that because oil production in the Rabi
concessions has dropped by nearly 80 percent since 1997, it is
expected that Shell Oil will eventually abandon its concession which
could result in "a dramatic increase in hunting, logging, and slash-
and-burn farming, as well as continued oil production by smaller
companies" less attuned to environmental concerns than the
multinational giant. Since the Shell concessions has essentially
served as a wildlife refuge, its abandonment could have significant
consequences for resident animal populations in this exceptionally
"Although the Rabi concession is being intensively managed for oil
production, the prohibitions on hunting and nighttime driving,
restricted access for nonemployees, and guidelines designed to
minimize deforestation inside the oil concession are clearly having
important benefits for wildlife," write the researchers. "Among all
of our study sites outside the concession, the one nearest the
concession... had the highest mammal abundances, suggesting that Rabi
concession might be acting as a population source and outside areas
as a population sink for wildlife... Hence, the Rabi oil concession
is probably better protected from poaching and illegal encroachment
than are most national parks in Gabon."
note: the entire article can be found here:
LIBREVILLE, May 15 (Infosplusgabon) - Following the crushing victory
of president Omar Bongo Ondimba in presidential elections last year,
the government still appears to be showing some signs of nervousness
about its domestic opponents. The veteran opposition leader Pierre
Mamboundou of the Union du peuple gabonais (UPG) on March 21 sought
asylum in the South African embassy in Libreville, following a police
raid on his party headquarters. Meanwhile, Mamboundou met President
The raid followed demonstrations by UPG supporters three days earlier
in protest at the high cost of living and against fraud in the recent
presidential election, and police claimed (though the UPG denied)
that they had come under fire during the demonstration.
The police also said they found pump action shotguns and dynamite at
the party headquarters, which Interior Minister Andé Mba Obame said
they planned to use to blow up a bridge. However, UPG officials
vociferously denied they had kept any arms there and said this was an
attempt to smear them with false allegations of firearms offences as
a way of sabotaging their party, which has undoubtedly been one of
the only real sources of political opposition to president Bongo
Ondimba in Gabon.
The Gabonese police have used such (and many other) tactics in the
past against domestic opponents. The police also confiscated computer
equipment and documents and arrested several party members during the
raid, and a court in Libreville on April 21 sentenced four UPG
members to terms of between two months and two years in jail for
firearms and public order offences, fining them CFAFr 250,000 each.
The lawyers for the defendants said the charges, which included
allegations that the activists were preparing an "insurrection," were
fabricated, and politically motivated.
Mr. Mamboundou, who came second in the badly flawed elections with an
official 13.6% of the vote (he claimed that in reality he got a far
higher share and that the election was fraudulent) remained inside
the embassy for a month and only returned to his office after meeting
personally with Mr. Bongo Ondimba, the Prime Minister, and several
other ministers, on April 19.
Mr. Mamboundou had for years refused to meet Mr. Bongo Ondimba
personally, noting that such face-to-face meetings are key forums
through with the president has for years divided the opposition by
reaching private accomodations with the leaders of opposition
parties, unions, and other groups.
The exiled opposition group BDP, which has been promising an
insurrection along with its "armed wing" Mamba, alleged on March 24
that the raid on the UPG headquarters was an attempt to "assassinate"
Mr. Mamboundou, though the government denied this.
BDP's "armed" sister organisation extremely hostile to the government
In February the Conseil national de la communication (CNC) which
oversees the media in Gabon had told internet service providers in
February to block the organisation's web sites www.bdpgabon.org and
that of BDP's "armed" sister organisation www.lemamba.org..
These sites, which remain accessible outside Gabon, are extremely
hostile to the government, referring to president Bongo Ondimbas
as "Satan" and urging armed insurrection in Gabon.
The web sites are hosted in the United States, where the leadership
of the group BDP (Bongo Doit Partir) often resides. Apart from a
possible attack on a Libreville electricity sub-station last year
(see previous CR, The Political Scene), the group appears not to have
been active militarily, although it does claim to be affiliated to an
unnamed Gabonese political party, and it does continue to promise
larger attacks in future.
In an interview in mid-February president Bongo Ondimba, responding
to questions about whether he was grooming his son Ai Bongo Ondimba
to succeed him in power, and whether or not he would stand again as
president at the next presidential elections, due in 2013, said
he "(did) not believe it would be the best solution" for him to stand
again at the next elections, and added (as he has said before) that
his son Ali could stand as a future presidential candidate like any
other Gabonese citizen, and that "there will be no Bongo dynasty in
Gabon." Georges Rawiri, the president of the Senate and one of
president Bongo Ondimba's staunchest, most trusted and powerful and
longest-serving allies, died on April 9 at the age of 74. Mr. Rawiri
has been important in government for most of the time since president
Bongo took over as president in 1967, and he was instrumental in many
groupings supportive of the president, including the Mouvement des
Amis de Bongo (subsequently Mouvement des Amis de Bongo Ondimba)
which was founded in 1994 and organised rallies and other actions in
support of Mr. Bongo Ondimba at various times since.
What is more, Mr. Rawiri, rumoured to be one of Gabon's richest, and
to some the richest, people, was one of the key operators in managing
the president's formidable political networks in Gabon, and, married
to a French woman, he was also a strong proponent of French influence
in the country too for decades, helping businesses such as Elf (now
Total), Bolloré and others promote themselves in the country.
He was also a key operator in the "Elf system" which for years (and
possibly, to a lesser extent still does) enabled French political
parties to access secret channels of finance via the Gabonese oil
sector, and he was also one of the founders of the Grande Loge
Nationale du Gabon, the powerful masonic set of networks which
underpinned parts of the Elf system.
It is not immediately clear what the effect will be on the Gabonese
political system, as his influence was so varied, but it is probably
a negative factor for president Bongo Ondimba's long-term ability to
manage the complex balance of ethnic forces in his country. No
replacement for Senate president has been announced yet, although it
is expected that Léonard Andjembé, Senate vice-president, will do the
job in the interim.
The post of Senate president is also particularly important because
its holder is the automatic successor to president Bongo Ondimba in
case of his death or unexpected departure from power. Mr. Rawiri was
from Moyen-Ogooué province, and it is likely that this post, or
perhaps the post of head the national assembly, will eventually be
handed over to someone else from that province, according to a
tradition employed by Mr. Bongo Ondimba by which select posts are
allocated to different ethnic and regional groups as part of a
complex system of ethnic balance in government which has helped keep
the peace in Gabon for years.
A week of national mourning was decreed after Mr. Rawiri's death
The death of Mr. Rawiri followed the death of president Bongo
Ondimba's cousin Julien Mpouho Epigat, another long-standing ally of
the president who had run the presidential secret services and who
died on January 30.
The deaths, which come at around the same time as the appointment of
a new government with several new and younger faces (see previous CR,
The Political Scene) represent a significant discontinuity in
Gabonese political life and so possibly represent new uncertainties
for the president which may take some time to settle.
Gabonese police used tear gas on March 30 at Léon Mba international
airport in Libreville to disperse around 100 former employees of the
troubled state-owned airline Air Gabon, who were protesting at
conditions imposed on them after the company's liquidation Air
traffic was disrupted for several hours in the protest, though no
demonstrators were injured.
The demonstrators said they are seeking a package of measures,
including piority treatment for former Air Gabon employees in new
recruitment to Air Gabon's replacement, as well as a severance
indemnity equivalent to between 18 and 84 months of salaries, a
position that was rejected by Air Gabon's liquidation committee.
Maixent Ndong Odzame, president of the Syndicat des personnels d'Air
Gabon (SYPAG, the Air Gabon Union) said after the police broke up the
demonstration that they would "continue the fight through other
Police in early March also arrested up to 20 people and used tear gas
to clear barriers set up in Nkoltang, 30km from Libreville on the
main highway Northeast from the capital. The barriers had been set up
by retired military personnel, who also set fire to around 10
forestry trucks in the area, who were seeking greater pension and
other benefit payments from the government. One of the protesters
died in unclear circumstances in a further outbreak of violence two
weeks after the arrests.
The tried-and-tested system of resolving such disputes in Gabon is
for the leaders of such groups to meet president Bongo Ondimba and
agree face-to-face on a way out of the situation, bypassing
ministries and other structures of state which are supposed to deal
with such matters ; the agreements often involve the payment of
considerations or allocations of positions to individual members of
the negotiating teams, and it is believed that some meetings of this
kind took place with respect to these disturbances.
Interior Minister André Mba Obame said in March that he believed an
unnamed political party was behind the actions, and promised to
prosecute some of those who had built the barricades ; twenty-two of
these personnel, who had also set up barricades in the same place on
February, were arrested and according to local media faced possible
The Syndicat des agents des affaires étrangeres (SAAE) staged a three-
day warning strike in late March to protest what they said were non-
payment of salaries and perks ; taxi drivers threatened (but did not
carry out the threat) to strike in March to protest fuel price rises,
and these were followed by the violent protests by retired military
personnel in March Various union members have also expressed
dissatisfaction with the minimum wage, and more protests about this
Independent newspaper Le Progressiste said in March that not much was
expected of the new government, given that "the centre of gravity is
elsewhere", referring to the fact that it is president Bongo Ondimba,
rather than the government, that has real power in Gabon.
The opposition is looking at legislative elections due in December
The face-to-face negotiating tactics mentioned above are also a
regular feature of the relationship between president Bongo Ondimba
and opposition parties.
Two parties - the Union Gabonaise pour la Démocratie et le
Développement (UGDD) and the Congrès pour la démocratie et la Justice
(CDJ) have so far refused to talk to the government led by Prime
Minister Jean Eyeghé Ndong, and have instead called for help from
foreign observers from the European Union, the African Union, the
United Nations, and North America, to try and preserve some measure
of impartiality in forthcoming legislative elections due in December.
Eight political parties, including the CDJ and UGDD, signed a joint
letter in late February to the president demanding the creation of
new "trustworthy" electoral lists, the return to a system of voting
in two rounds, free access for opposition parties to state media, and
changes to the composition of the Conseil Nationale Électorale (CNE)
which oversees the electoral process and is heavily supported by the
This was rejected and instead the parties were offered the chance to
select 11 representatives to work in the electoral registration
centres in Libreville and nearby Owendo ; the opposition parties have
since rejected this offer, saying it was not serious. The
registration has therefore gone ahead.
In light of ongoing budget cuts and austerity, the Ministry of
Foreign affairs has commissioned studies into how to streamline its
expensive diplomatic presence around the world, shifting the emphasis
of its 38 embassies (including 14 in Africa) away from certain
countries, notably in North Africa and Europe, and towards what are
increasingly seen as more relevant development partners such as India
and Malaysia, and also the Czech Republic.
French companies "do not respond to the tenders" offered in Gabon
Relations with France are declining gently over the years ;
nevertheless it remains the preferred partner in most areas. In an
interview in mid-February in French media, president Bongo Ondimba
expressed irritation with declining French interest in his country
and said that he had recently expressed this concern not only to the
boss of French-based oil firm Total on a recent visit to Paris but
also to French president Jacques Chirac ; in addition he said French
companies "do not respond to the tenders" offered in Gabon and that
the French are "conspicuous by their absence."
Nevertheless, on a visit to Paris in February he was warmly received
by France's top politicians, including Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister
Dominic de Villepin and his rival the interior minister Nicholas
Relations with the United States are improving too, despite a mild
fall in Gabonese oil exports to the U.S. (see Oil and Gas section,
below), as the superpower seeks increasingly to project its military
and political power into the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea. The U.S.S.
Emory, with 1,400 marines on board, visited Gabon in March for a four-
day visit, which involved training and exchanges with the Gabonese
LIBREVILLE, May 15 (Infosplusgabon) - Finance Minister Paul Toungui
said in a meeting in Libreville on April 17 that Gabon's economy grew
by 3.0% in 2005, from 1.4% in 2004, and inflation fell to 0.0% from
0.5% in 2004, partly as a result of a "social truce" the president
agreed in September 2003 with labour unions, the government and
businesses : a deal to address certain of their concerns, in exchange
for agreements to curtail or stop strike actions.
He said that the banking system's net domestic credit fell by 8.5% to
CFAFr 490bn in December, from CFAFr 535bn in December 2004, as rising
credit to the economy (CFAFr 465bn, from rising credit to drinks and
timber) was overtaken by a reduction in credit to the state.
Mr. Toungui said, however, that despite a decision by the state to
reduce its debts to the banking system, and the relative solidity of
the sector overall, this had not resulted in enough of a rise in
credit to the economy despite a resultant rise in the banks'
liquidity, adding that the banks "are not financing the economy."
This lack of bank lending has been a problem for several countries in
sub-Saharan Africa, as a result of banks' caution and relative lack
of attractive opportunities for lending amid uncertain investment
climate and property rights.
Only 15% of the market was made up of French cars. In an anecdotal
sign of economic growth in some sectors, official data showed that
3,600 new vehicles were sold in Gabon in 2005, 50 percent more than
in 2004 (which was itself a very bad year) but still short of the
record 4,400 sales established in 1999, during a period of economic
Over 80% of all new vehicle sales were of Japanese cars, and two
thirds of all vehicle sales were of 4X4 all-terrain vehicles. Only
15% of the market was made up of French cars. Around 150 new Chinese
vehicles have appeared on Gabon's streets recently, following their
arrival just ahead of the presidential elections last November.
China's Xinhua news agency said the vehicles, which were imported
into Gabon by a Lebanese businessman, were given as a gift to
president Bongo Ondimba, who allocated them to some of his
supporters. A Chinese distributor is now selling Chinese-made
vehicles in Gabon.
New official Chinese data shows Gabon's trade with China has shrunk
slightly, with total trade (imports + exports) falling by 5.2% from
2004 to $392.4m, despite higher oil prices and significantly higher
Chinese exports to Gabon over the year, rising by 192% in 2005 to
$41.3m. This left imports (almost entirely of crude oil) 12.1% lower
This shrinkage is surprising, given that Chinese president Hu Jintao
in February 2004 chose Libreville as the platform to announce a new
strategic partnership with Africa, and the interest of Chinese
companies in Gabon's mining and oil sectors.
This decline also stands in stark contrast to Angola, where a fast-
growing political relationship anchored by large Chinese loans to
Angola has seen an explosion of trade, particularly Angolan oil sales
which saw Angola in February overtake Saudi Arabia to become China's
largest oil supplier (eds : surprising, but true, though this was
only on a monthly basis in Feb.).
The lack of growth in Gabon's trade with China suggests that despite
Gabon's efforts to diversify its foreign partners away from over-
reliance on France in recent years, this has not yet been reflected
significantly in Chinese trade statistics.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Gabonese
exports to the United States have also suffered a slight fall in 2005
to 46.5mb, down from 52.1mb in 2004.
The declines reflect stagnant Gabonese oil production, and it is
believed some increase in exports to the European Union.
"Most of the German troops planned for the EU mission in Congo to
secure elections will not travel to the African country, according to
German media. FT Deutschland reports that the troops will be
stationed in neighbouring Gabon and will only be used in an emergency.
"The bulk of the forces will be held ready in Gabon and Europe and
only transferred in an emergency," defence ministry sources are
quoted as saying.
Up until now, it was assumed that German troops would be stationed in
the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, to oversee the country's first
democratic elections on 30 June. The German government is to agree
the exact mandate of the Congolese mission today (17 May); the issue
will then go before the parliament which has the final say on the use
of German troops, also in international missions.
The news about the German troops comes even as development NGOs are
already saying that 1,500 troops is not enough to stabilise an
emergency situation in Congo, if trouble breaks out. It also comes
after months of EU wrangling over the exact make up of the mission
with many EU states slow to send troops to the turbulent African
state. The German government, led by chancellor Angela Merkel, agreed
to provide around one third of the troops for the EU operation.
The military planning will be conducted from a German headquarters in
Potsdam, while France will lead the EU forces on the ground. Austria,
Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Spain and Sweden have also pledged to
contribute to the mission."
Interesting that for the first time since WWII that German troops are
being stationed in Gabon and that they are avoiding the Congo. Should
be a hot time in Libreville for all....
- Just finished reading the account of Neil's one month bike trip
through Cameroon. Pretty interesting account with Neil's insights.
The following I scanned and OCR'd:
" All of the villages were equally poor, and the people descended
from the same tribes, so the difference must run deeper. Maybe
sometime in the past there had been a chief, or a succession of
chiefs, who were grasping, insensitive, suspicious, or simply rude.
They would deal with their people in that fashion, and whether or not
the people emulated the chief's attitudes, they would be forced to
emulate his behavior. The chief's world-view, however twisted, would
become the example, and soon the way the villagers treated each
And if the men dealt with their neighbors by dishonesty or suspicion,
so too would the women on market day, and the sons and daughters
after them. It would become the manner in which people related to one
another, defensive and cynical and me against-the-world, and before
long the whole village would function by that modus vivendi. (There's
even an international parallel there.) The opposite would also apply,
in the ripples radiating from a chief who was confident and
personable, who treated his people fairly and with affection. His
village would have time for friendliness, and room for self-respect.
Could hell be a place where there is no self-respect? A place where
people have no pride in their own existence or behavior, and thus
would have none for anyone or anything else? Was that what had made
Kumba so unnerving? The town so slovenly and repellent not because
of poverty, but because the people didn't seem to care if they dumped
garbage in the streets, if they were rude and unpleasant, if the
ditches reeked, if the roads and buildings were falling apart. That
sign in the hotel room about showing respect for yourself and others,
that was a great way to ask people to behave themselves. Aristotle
would have liked that."
Half-way through the book, I read the back cover to find that the
author, Neil Peart, is/has been the drummer for Rush. Better read
not know that fact when I read the first half.
I've quite a library of African adventure accoutns and novels. It's a
personal passion. Any recommendations other than Paul Theroux?
- I also just finished a book that could be considered sort of
an "adventure account". It is "The Trouble with Africa" and was
written by Robert Calderisi. He is a Canadian that has been working
on African development issues for 30 years or so. First with the
Canadian fund and then with the World Bank. He was also, the
country director for a group of countries that included Gabon until
2003 when he retired.
I highly recommend it.
Another interesting book that I am in the middle of is "The Country
of The Dwarfs" by Paul Du Chaillu. It was first published in 1871
(mine is the 1913 edition) and so far it is very interesting.
He was a French (or maybe American) explorer / traveler /
anthropologist that traveled quite a bit in Gabon and wrote a number
of books about it.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "bobutne" <bobutne@...>
> Just finished reading the account of Neil's one month bike trip
> through Cameroon. Pretty interesting account with Neil's insights.
> The following I scanned and OCR'd:
> " All of the villages were equally poor, and the people
> from the same tribes, so the difference must run deeper. Mayberude.
> sometime in the past there had been a chief, or a succession of
> chiefs, who were grasping, insensitive, suspicious, or simply
> They would deal with their people in that fashion, and whether ornot
> the people emulated the chief's attitudes, they would be forced towould
> emulate his behavior. The chief's world-view, however twisted,
> become the example, and soon the way the villagers treated eachsuspicion,
> And if the men dealt with their neighbors by dishonesty or
> so too would the women on market day, and the sons and daughtersone
> after them. It would become the manner in which people related to
> another, defensive and cynical and me against-the-world, andbefore
> long the whole village would function by that modus vivendi.(There's
> even an international parallel there.) The opposite would alsoapply,
> in the ripples radiating from a chief who was confident andrespect.
> personable, who treated his people fairly and with affection. His
> village would have time for friendliness, and room for self-
> Could hell be a place where there is no self-respect? A place
> people have no pride in their own existence or behavior, and thusmade
> would have none for anyone or anything else? Was that what had
> Kumba so unnerving? The town so slovenly and repellent notbecause
> of poverty, but because the people didn't seem to care if theydumped
> garbage in the streets, if they were rude and unpleasant, if theThat
> ditches reeked, if the roads and buildings were falling apart.
> sign in the hotel room about showing respect for yourself andothers,
> that was a great way to ask people to behave themselves. AristotleIt's a
> would have liked that."
> Half-way through the book, I read the back cover to find that the
> author, Neil Peart, is/has been the drummer for Rush. Better read
> not know that fact when I read the first half.
> I've quite a library of African adventure accoutns and novels.
> personal passion. Any recommendations other than Paul Theroux?
- Thanks, Amin, for the recommendations. I also ordered "Paul Du
Chaillu, gorilla hunter: Being the extraordinary life and adventures
of Paul Du Chaillu" by Michel Vaucaire and "A Continent for the
Taking: The Tragedy and Hope of Africa" by Howard W. French.
--- In email@example.com, "Amin F. Abari"
> I also just finished a book that could be considered sort of
> an "adventure account". It is "The Trouble with Africa" and was
> written by Robert Calderisi. He is a Canadian that has been
> on African development issues for 30 years or so. First with thenumber
> Canadian fund and then with the World Bank. He was also, the
> country director for a group of countries that included Gabon until
> 2003 when he retired.
> I highly recommend it.
> Another interesting book that I am in the middle of is "The Country
> of The Dwarfs" by Paul Du Chaillu. It was first published in 1871
> (mine is the 1913 edition) and so far it is very interesting.
> He was a French (or maybe American) explorer / traveler /
> anthropologist that traveled quite a bit in Gabon and wrote a
> of books about it.insights.
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "bobutne" <bobutne@>
> > Just finished reading the account of Neil's one month bike trip
> > through Cameroon. Pretty interesting account with Neil's
> > The following I scanned and OCR'd:to
> > " All of the villages were equally poor, and the people
> > from the same tribes, so the difference must run deeper. Maybe
> > sometime in the past there had been a chief, or a succession of
> > chiefs, who were grasping, insensitive, suspicious, or simply
> > They would deal with their people in that fashion, and whether or
> > the people emulated the chief's attitudes, they would be forced
> > emulate his behavior. The chief's world-view, however twisted,Aristotle
> > become the example, and soon the way the villagers treated each
> > other.
> > And if the men dealt with their neighbors by dishonesty or
> > so too would the women on market day, and the sons and daughters
> > after them. It would become the manner in which people related to
> > another, defensive and cynical and me against-the-world, and
> > long the whole village would function by that modus vivendi.
> > even an international parallel there.) The opposite would also
> > in the ripples radiating from a chief who was confident and
> > personable, who treated his people fairly and with affection. His
> > village would have time for friendliness, and room for self-
> > Could hell be a place where there is no self-respect? A place
> > people have no pride in their own existence or behavior, and thus
> > would have none for anyone or anything else? Was that what had
> > Kumba so unnerving? The town so slovenly and repellent not
> > of poverty, but because the people didn't seem to care if they
> > garbage in the streets, if they were rude and unpleasant, if the
> > ditches reeked, if the roads and buildings were falling apart.
> > sign in the hotel room about showing respect for yourself and
> > that was a great way to ask people to behave themselves.
> > would have liked that."read
> > Half-way through the book, I read the back cover to find that the
> > author, Neil Peart, is/has been the drummer for Rush. Better
> > not know that fact when I read the first half.
> > I've quite a library of African adventure accoutns and novels.
> It's a
> > personal passion. Any recommendations other than Paul Theroux?
LIBREVILLE, May 22 (Infosplusgabon) - Henri-Claude Oyima, 50, is CEO
of the International Gabonese and French Bank (BGFI Bank). In the
space of several years he has taken the bank to the position of
number one in Gabon and CEMAC zone.
After completing a Bachelor of Science in Administration and Master
of Art in Development Banking at Washington DC University, Oyima
started working at Citibank of New York in 1982 and joined BGFI in
He is an active businessman and he led a rapid integration of BGFI
Bank in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo by placing a strategic
use of knowledge at the heart of business success.
M. Oyima who studied in the United States has encouraged his staff to
learn English is eager to point out that Gabon's commercial and
financial interests are no longer dominated by France. On the
contrary, there is willingness at all levels to open new horizons in
Asia and the Americas, as well as in Africa. BGFI Bank already
operates in countries such as Congo and Equatorial Guinea.
One of the leaders in the commercial banking sector in Gabon is BGFI
Bank, which traces its origins back to the French bank, Paribas. Both
the capital and the personnel of BGFI were gradually `Gabonized',
initially with a significant state participation that has now been
reduced to 8%.
The head office is in Libreville, Gabon's capital. Twelve branch
offices are accelerating the integration into the global economy.
BGFI Bank became one of Central Africa leading banking and financial
services organisations. The bank offers personal, commercial,
corporate and merchant banking products and has relationships with
all major international and regional financial institutions.
The BGFI Group Bank offers a comprehensive range of services to the
mains companies interested in trading with or investing in Gabon.
Oyima is the president of the Gabonese employer confederation (CPG)
and the président of "Le Club de Libreville" . First of all, the
Gabon Interprofessional Union (UNIGABON) was founded on 4 September
1959. In 1978, its title was changed to the current Gabonese
Employers' Confederation (CPG).
The CPG was initially concerned with social issues above all else,
but it has progressively moved towards a wider conception of its
mission and today is determined to play a role in the development of
Gabon and its companies by provide the authorities with a good source
of proposals and strong representation.
M. Oyima thinks that investors in Gabon must make enquiries at the
official institutions, such as the Gabonese Employers' Confederation,
consultancy firms and the Agency for the Promotion of Private
Investments, prior to setting up business. Then comply with the texts
in force and act in accordance with the labour laws.
They have to be familiar with any agreements and obligations
associated with the sector of activity related to the chosen business
and apply for all the necessary licences in this respect.
BGFI BANK is a 100% African Bank established in April 1971. It was
born out of a partnership between Banque nationale de Paris (BNP-
Parisbas), the Netherlands and the Gabonese government. 10 years on
the bank was renamed Banque Paribas Gabon. The change in strategy
adopted by Paribas in 1996 saw the state become the majority
shareholder and the bank renamed once more, this time as Banque
Gabonaise et Française Internationale (BGFI).
Since 2000, the acronym BGFI BANK has been preferred over the full
name. A month later, the first branch outside Gabon was opened in
Brazzaville. This was followed by another in Malabo in Equatorial
Guinea, and, in 2001, the Pointe Noire branch in Congo.
"Gabon, on Africa's Atlantic coast, is one of those remote places
where it usually takes the deep pockets of an energy industry giant
like Exxon Mobil (XOM) or Royal Dutch Shell (RDS'A) to discover and
produce oil and natural gas. So what is Vaalco Energy, an upstart
with just 20 full-time employees and annual revenue of $93 million,
doing there drilling into the ocean floor? Pumping a lot of cash.
Executives at the Houston-based outfit figured the odds of striking
it rich were better in foreign territory than at home, where hundreds
of other wildcatters were hustling for a dwindling number of
prospects. The timing of its African foray could hardly have been
better. With oil prices around $70 a barrel, reserves valued at
$101.6 million in 2003 are now worth 60% more.
Says Chief Executive Robert Gerry III: "For us there's a lot less
competition and a lot more opportunity offshore."The Gabon oil has
fueled phenomenal growth for the energy outfit. Over the past three
years, its revenues have increased more than eightfold, while profits
are up 75 times, to $33.7 million, from just $445,000 in 2002. That
not only put Vaalco on BusinessWeek's Hot Growth list for the first
time, it allowed it to debut at No. 1.
OIL RAGS TO RICHES. Gerry, a 67-year-old veteran of the oil patch who
started out as a New York stockbroker, has taken Vaalco from hard
times to wealth. The company was barely alive in the late 1990s as
energy prices cratered and production from its old wells in the
Philippines dwindled. Its annual revenue was less than $1 million
To revive the company, Gerry drilled a test well in an expanse
extending 25 miles from the coast of Gabon. Vaalco had paid less than
$1 million in 1995 for the right to drill there. The well, in 270
feet of water, found reserves estimated at 30 million barrels, and
Vaalco owns 28% of that oil. The Etame field now produces about
18,000 barrels a day for its partners, and provides essentially all
of Vaalco's revenue.
With cash reserves of $70 million, Gerry is ready to do more
wildcatting. Later this year, he hopes to sink wells in new acreage
in Gabon. The oil producer also has put up $8.4 million for a 40%
interest in 1.4 million acres off the coast of Angola and has set up
an office in Scotland to scout for North Sea projects. Of course,
Vaalco's future depends on adding reserves to offset its output.
Given its peewee stature, vaalco is far more vulnerable to a string
of dry wells or a plunge in oil prices than Exxon Mobil or Shell. And
if it finds more oil? Don't be surprised to see a larger player try
to gobble up the little money pumper.
- 6/4/2006 LIBREVILLE, June 3 (AFP): Gabon has granted China sole
rights to exploit huge untapped iron ore reserves and build costly
rail links needed to reach them in the tropical forest, a government
statement announced yesterday.
A Chinese consortium headed by the China National Machinery and
Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CEMEC) has been granted the
rights by the west African country's government.
The statement said the Gabonese state would have a share in the
project but gave no further details.
An informed source said work would be launched at the end of the year
and the first ore would be extracted before 2010.
The decision kicks out the world's leading iron miner, Brazil's Vale
do Rio Doce (CVRD), which since April last year had headed a
consortium with China's CEMEC and Sinosteel, along with the French
But the Brazilians and the Chinese "fell out over who would be in
charge of the various operations," an observer said, "and in the end
they decided to make separate bids."
The duel split the Gabonese government between those who backed the
Brazilian bid, led by Richard Onouviet, minister for oil and
resources, and supporters of the Chinese, led by Foreign Minister
Jean Ping, whose father is Chinese.
The iron ore was discovered in 1955 at Belinga, which lies in remote
forest hills 500 kilometres (300 miles) east of Libreville, the
capital and port on Gabon's Atlantic coast.
Belinga is thought to be one of the last major untapped iron ore
reserves on the planet, estimated at at least a billion tonnes, 60
per cent rich in iron.
- Morocco and Gabon signed, on Wednesday, two cooperation agreements in
the infrastructure and housing fields. The first agreement provides
for setting up a framework for technical cooperation in the
infrastructure field to promote technology transfer, development of
competencies and human resources and rational management of
infrastructures. The second agreement in the housing sector aims to
set up a follow up committee to follow up cooperation actions in this
In a statement to the press, Minister Delegate for housing, Taoufik
Hjira said that a common cooperation program is underway to build
some 3,700 houses in Libreville.
The cooperation agreement in the housing sector also provides for
implementing a bilateral cooperation program for 2006-2007, through
which Morocco will provide the necessary support for Gabon to set up
an institution in charge of urban development and elaborate urban
As for trade cooperation, the two parties underlined the need to give
a new impetus to their trade exchanges and endeavor to sign a free
trade agreement. In this respect, Moroccan Trade, Industry and
Economy upgrading minister, Salah Eddine Mezouar, said that Morocco,
anew, suggested to establish a free-trade zone with the Economic and
Monetary Community of Central Africa.
King Mohammed VI received, Thursday, Gabon's Prime minister, Jean
Eyéghé Ndong who pays an official visit to Morocco. Ndong was
accompanied, during the audience, by Ali Bongo and Jean François
Ndongou, respectively Gabonese State ministers of National Defence,
and of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, Francophonie and regional
integration. The audience was also attended by Moroccan minister
delegate for Foreign Affairs, Taib Fassi Fihri, and the two countries
respective ambassadors, Ali Boji and François Banga Eboumi.
Source : MAP
- New York Times, June 12, 2006
The U.S. Senate plans to begin consideration this week of the defense
authorization bill for the coming year. One distressing section of
the package would reauthorize the Pentagon to arm and train foreign
militaries, something it was first authorized to do for 2006.
Although the money involved represents only a $200 million piece of
the half-trillion-dollar Pentagon budget, it marks the continuation
of a dangerous militarization of American foreign policy.
Traditionally, the authority to train and equip foreign forces was
the territory of the State Department. Arming a foreign power that
does not respect human rights invites disaster. So Congress requires
the State Department to verify that a government meets certain
standards of human rights and democracy before it can receive
But no such restrictions impede the Defense Department, and the
danger is more than theoretical. Six of the 10 African nations the
Pentagon proposes to train and equip this year (Algeria, Cameroon,
Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Tunisia) have poor human rights
Washington has little control over how recipient countries choose to
wield their newfound might, so train-and-equip programs must be kept
under strict observation to ensure that they adhere to necessary
guidelines. But the Pentagon is notorious for not operating
transparently, and the congressional committees that are supposed to
oversee Pentagon spending are unlikely to spare much attention for
such a small piece of the overall military budget.
Congress should return these programs to State Department
supervision. If it cannot summon the will to do that, it should at
least mandate that the programs financed by the Pentagon conform to
the same democratic and human rights standards that apply when they
are run by the State Department.
- Gabon Faces Challenge to Reform
By Jeffrey Young
07 July 2006
The West African coastal state of Gabon has had only one president
for nearly 40 years. Omar Bongo Ondimba, Africa's longest serving
head of state, has presided during decades of oil-based prosperity
that may not be sustainable.
Libreville, Gabon. The shops in the capital of the Gabonese
Republic, Libreville, are filled with expensive goods from Europe and
Asia. Government ministry buildings are plush and built on a grand
scale. The administration of Gabon's President, El Hadj Omar Bongo
Ondimba is stable, with key posts filled with his family members.
Per capita income last year was estimated at $6,800, in large part
because the country's population is only some 1.4 million people. On
the surface, Gabon appears to be a success story. But beneath that
veneer are problems with fair governance and the country's economic
The Bongo Strategy. Omar Bongo was elevated from the post of vice-
president in 1967 when Gabon's first President, Leon M'Ba died
suddenly. Former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria Princeton Lyman, who is
now with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, says that
along with the presidency, Mr. Bongo inherited M'Ba's taste for
autocratic rule. "He's part of an earlier generation of African
leaders who are virtually 'presidents for life.' You've got a very,
very dominant government [political] party, and an opposition that
haven't really got their feet on the ground and been able to operate
very effectively. So all the decisions are really made by the
president. There isn't a lively [i.e., independent] parliament," says
The existence of a political opposition in Gabon is a relatively
recent phenomenon. In 1968, Omar Bongo declared Gabon to be a one-
party state, controlled by his Gabonese Democratic Party, the P.D.G.
In the early 1990s, President Bongo reverted back to a multi-party
But Mark Rosenberg at the Freedom House human rights monitoring group
in New York says the resumption of multiple parties in Gabon was
actually a cynical ploy by Omar Bongo to maintain control of the
state. "There's certainly an element of 'divide and conquer' here.
You have 35 registered political parties in Gabon. 29 of them belong
to an alliance with Bongo's P.D.G. The P.D.G. has been in power
since independence [from France in 1960]. That's an overwhelming
political dominance," says Rosenberg. "Even if these parties in the
alliance decide to buck [i.e., oppose] Bongo or his party, they
wouldn't have much space to do so."
This can be seen in the country's last three presidential elections,
in which Mr. Bongo's vote totals have gone from 51 percent in 1993 to
72 percent last year. Meanwhile, the P.D.G. - controlled parliament
has abolished presidential term limits, removing an obstacle for Mr.
Bongo's continued rule.
Within the government, Omar Bongo has prevented challenges to his
rule by putting his family members or others very close to him in key
positions such as Minister of Defense. That post is held by his son,
Ali, who many analysts expect to claim the presidency when his father
dies or leaves office, despite a constitution that does not place him
directly in the line of succession.
Jennifer Cooke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
in Washington says along with avoiding strife within the government,
Gabon has largely been spared the inter-ethnic and class-related
problems that affect other African states. "Bongo himself is from a
minority group, which may take away some of that [inter-ethnic]
friction. Another point is that given the wealth of the country and
the fairly high per capita income, everybody is doing well enough
that it doesn't really come down to the hard core divisions [i.e.,
between 'haves' and 'have-nots.']," says Cooke.
Gabon's high level of government spending during Mr. Bongo's rule has
been maintained even during times like the 1990s, when oil prices
plunged, by borrowing massive amounts of money from international
lenders. As a result, the country's public debt level is now nearly
30 percent of its gross domestic product.
Gabon has enjoyed oil-based prosperity since the late 1960s. But
Keith Myers, with the Royal Institute for International Affairs in
London, says that economic underpinning won't last
forever. "Gabon's 'Achilles heel' is that oil production peaked a few
years ago and is [now] on a steadily declining track. And so has
G.D.P. As a result, poverty is starting to get worse, and the
government badly needs to implement a diversification policy to wean
itself away from oil dependence," says Myers.
Gabon's oil production last year was about 268,000 barrels per day,
down by a third from its peak in the mid-1990s. Many industry
experts say its reserves could be depleted in less than a decade.
C.S.I.S. analyst Jennifer Cooke says that, so far, Gabon's president
and his government have not adequately prepared for a future without
oil. "Bongo is not looking toward 2015, when the country is going to
really have to deal with declining oil revenue," says Cooke. "Yes,
tourism is one thing [i.e., a way to replace oil revenues]. The
logging industry and the timber industry - - there's likely to be a
great deal more demand there down the line. And Gabon is rich in
precious timbers. But there hasn't really to date been the
investment in other sectors that are going to diversify the economy
and carry the country through [this transition from an oil-based
Omar Bongo Ondimba is more than 70 years old and many observers
predict that he may not live to the end of his current term in 2012.
But so long as he remains in power, they say that the status quo in
Gabon will continue and that solving the country's problems may be a
task faced by his successor.
- "I've never understood what this force is doing. Are the elections
taking place in Gabon?" Christophe Mboso, one of Congo's 32
presidential candidates, said sarcastically during a televised debate
Full article: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L25562447.htm
- I heard one theory that says that the force is there in fact to
provide backup and logistical support for Ivorian rebels, who will be
launching a major attempt to overthrow President Gbagbo sometime soon.
In a nutshell:
1. ONUCI (UN force in Cote d'Ivoire) complains about allegations of
violence and gross human rights violations by the Gbagbo government;
2. The UN responds by a resolution condemning the government and
severely restricting its ability to engage in hostilities;
3. The Forces Nouvelles (rebels) launch a major attack on Abidjan,
aided in this by the EU force.
4. They will seize the palace, as it seems they will be waiting for
President Gbagbo to travel to New York for the UN summit in September.
That's what I heard.
--- In email@example.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@...> wrote:
> "I've never understood what this force is doing. Are the elections
> taking place in Gabon?" Christophe Mboso, one of Congo's 32
> presidential candidates, said sarcastically during a televised debate
> last week.
> Full article: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L25562447.htm