More hats in the ring....
- Two top opposition figures to challenge Africa's longest-standing
president 10 Oct 2005 18:46:16 GMT Source: IRIN
LIBREVILLE, 10 October (IRIN) - Two heavyweights of Gabon's
opposition have announced they will try to shake President Omar Bongo
from nearly four decades of power, after winning concessions on the
make-up of the national election commission.
Speaking to supporters in Libreville on Sunday, Zacharie Myboto, a
former minister under Bongo, and Pierre Mamboundou, a presidential
contender in the previous election in 1998, promised a clean break
from 38 years of rule under Bongo Africa's longest-standing head of
Their announcements ended an opposition boycott of the national
election commission (NEC), which protesting politicians had accused
of being stacked with ruling party supporters.
Up to Friday the opposition had no seats on the 120-strong NEC. But
after negotiations with Bongo the opposition was granted 40 slots.
"Since the Gabon you want is one that means progress for all, I have
decided to run in the next presidential election," 67-year-old Myboto
said to a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters, many waving banners that
read, "Zacharie Myboto for change."
Having spent 23 years in Bongo's government before leaving the ruling
party in 2001 and forming the Gabonese Union for Democracy and
Development party this year, Myboto asked forgiveness for the errors
of the past and promised to do away with corruption and cronyism.
Across town, Mamboundou, who was defeated in the 1998 presidential
elections, called for sweeping political, economic and social changes
"After 40 years of authoritarian rule and its disastrous
consequences, it's high time for Gabon to have a brighter tomorrow,"
said the 58-year-old president of the Union of Gabonese People (UPG)
A third opposition candidate, a 46 year-old business leader named
Michel Rouka Rabenkogo, another defector from the ruling party, will
run as an independent.
Meanwhile, Bongo's supporters aren't shying from the spotlight. The
leaders of two parties, both members of the ruling coalition,
endorsed the president for re-election. Bongo has ruled oil-rich
Gabon since 1967 and would have been required to step down this year
but for a 2003 change to the constitution which allowed him to run
again. The election will take place on two days, with security forces
voting on 25 November and the public on 27 November. The opposition
has expressed concern that the unusual separate elections scheme will
facilitate fraud. But Bongo defended the move, saying it would free
up security forces so they could maintain order on polling day.
Candidates have until 12 October to register and the campaign will
run from 13 October to 26 November.
- LIBREVILLE, 20 October (IRIN) - The official start to Gabon's
presidential election campaign is still close to a month away but
tension is already rising as allegations and thinly veiled threats
start to fly. Opposition candidates are demanding an election free of
the dirty tricks they say have helped keep President Omar Bongo
Africa's longest-serving president in power.
While many voters see the 38-year leader's victory as a foregone
conclusion, the opposition is not about to give in. Of the 13
challengers who applied, only three have been officially accepted
pending an appeal. But among the three are two political
heavyweights former presidential candidate Pierre Mamboundou and
former Bongo cabinet minister Zacharie Myboto. Pastor Ernest Tomo,
running as an independent, also won a slot.
In Myboto the ruling party's number two man before his defection in
2001 Bongo faces not only a popular rival but one who knows state
secrets, which could give weight to his allegations of government
corruption. Myboto charges that Bongo lost the last presidential
election in 1998 despite official results that showed the incumbent
defeating Mamboundou by 66 percent to 16 percent.
Mamboundou's Union for the Gabonese People (UPG), which claims that
opinion polls consistently show their leader in front with Bongo in
third place, has said it will not accept any "cheating" in the
"We state categorically that Pierre Mamboundou will not be cheated
out of victory again the way he was in 1998," UPG secretary general
Richard Moulomba said in a communique on Monday. "If Omar Bongo and
his cronies actually try to pull off the fraud they're preparing,
what will happen, will happen."
Bongo, for his part, has also been talking tough. "Whoever dares to
threaten Gabon's peace and stability will have to deal with me
first," he said earlier this month as he announced his candidacy,
which would have been impossible but for a 2003 constitutional
amendment allowing him to stand for another term.
At the end of last week, the ministries of defence and public
security released a statement warning all candidates not to use the
campaign as a pretext for dividing the country.
But Myboto is charging hypocrisy. "The government's plan is to
tarnish our image by portraying us as irresponsible," he said earlier
this week. "They are the ones who want to set this country ablaze and
they want us to be held responsible for what they are preparing."
Beyond this war of words, security concerns have already had a
tangible effect on election planning. Citing the threat of violence,
Bongo has declared that elections will be held over two days, 25
November for the military and 27 November for the rest of the
population, in order to ensure the protection of voters.
But this measure, which is new to Gabonese politics, has only thrown
fuel on the fire. The opposition is concerned that since soldiers
vote in their barracks, they will simply mark their ballots as they
are told. The absence of a separate voting list for the military
could open the door for double-voting, once on Friday and once on
Sunday. And government opponents say ballot boxes sitting for two
days could be tempting targets for would-be stuffers.
But the UPG's Mamboundou says his supporters are ready for a long
fight."The struggle for democratic transition is an endurance test,
especially against a 40 year-old regime," he said on Wednesday.
The campaign does not officially begin until 13 November.
- afrol News, 10 November - In a drive to market Gabon's "unspoilt"
forests and coastline to Western tourists, the government shies no
efforts. Only weeks before the elections, where President Omar Bongo
plans for yet another non-transparent re-election, a new tourism
brochure emphasises that "Gabon is a stable country."
Gabon has invested much into its environment, setting aside enormous
areas for national parks. The idea always has been to spare the very
large parts of the country that are still underdeveloped for future
ecotourism - a drive observers agree could become a good revenue
source in the future.
So far, infrastructure has been mostly missing to attract tourists on
a larger scale, but the first resorts are getting ready and some
private companies have started operating in the country's 13 new
national parks. Thus, the time for marketing on Western markets is
This week, Gabonese tourism authorities sent out their first press
release through a British consultancy group and a US newswire, hoping
to get positive news coverage in the many travel journals published
in Europe and North America. The release demonstrates how Gabon
wishes to be perceived by potential travellers in these markets.
Gabon is presented as "Africa's last Eden", the country where "the
forests, wildlife and fisheries are still in a relatively good state
and a network of 13 new national parks now protects many of the
country's wilder areas. Nowhere else in western Africa is the coastal
environment as unspoilt as it is in Gabon," according to the release.
Potential tourists are presented to the country's great conservation
efforts. "Tourism pays for conservation" is the concept presented to
make visitors feel they are part of this effort. The release takes
the virtual traveller through several Gabonese national parks
by "boat, 4WD or on foot." Lowland gorillas and chimpanzees are the
The release however also takes into account that Gabon is a rather
unknown country in Western tourism markets, and has the Western
traveller's scepticism to potentially unstable African countries in
mind. Already in the introduction, it therefore comforts the reader
by informing that Gabon has a "high standard of living maintained by
an active petroleum industry."
Political information finds no ample place in the release. It is
merely observed that "Gabon is a stable country" in the first line.
This can of course not be argued against, given that President Bongo
has ruled in Gabon with absolute powers since 1967.
President Bongo indeed plans to get re-elected for yet another seven-
year term on 27 November and no one expects that the electoral system
will give room for another candidate to win against the incumbent.
The 69-year-old President recently was angered by opposition
complaints against a alleged government scheme to manipulate the
electoral register. A crackdown on the opposition was the solution to
The President has announced the beginning of the electoral campaign
to be on 14 November, when he starts touring the southern province of
Nyanga using state limousines, helicopters and aircrafts. There are
four other candidates - some of them close to the ruling party -
to "challenge" Mr Bongo.
Even before the electoral campaign has officially been inaugurated,
political turbulence is mounting. One of the main opposition parties,
the Gabonese People's Assembly (RPG), has withdrawn from the National
Electoral Commission (CNE) alleging that fraud is being prepared.
Opposition candidate Zacharie Myboto today was prevented from holding
a meeting in Libreville.
With the President's unfair election methods being clearer
demonstrated each day, the opposition is considering counteractions.
Political violence has indeed occurred in connection with elections
before, in particular in the 2003 presidential poll. November 2005
thus may not be the luckiest month to book a flight to Gabon, or to
start campaigning for the country's tourism potential.