"Gabon is stable" says tourism brochure
- 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.