Gabonese civil society’s Open Letter to the Bishops of member countries of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region (ACERAC)
Dear Fathers in the Episcopate of the Church in Central Africa
During his mission trip to Angola, March 20, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI has spoken openly in favor of the various initiatives whose purpose is to promote sound practices in public affairs, good governance and the fight against corruption. Among them, NEPAD, the Kimberley Process, the coalition Publish What You Pay Initiative and the Extractive Industries Transparency.
Indeed, Central Africa is potentially the richest part of the continent in mineral resources, but ironically the poorest and least developed.
According to experts, two phenomena explain this catastrophic situation:
1 - The longevity in power and the lack of democracy.
2 - Widespread corruption of ruling oligarchies
a) longevity in power.
This is the heart of the problem.
Indeed, the democratic deficit is the norm in all countries of our sub-region. The heads of state are on average 30 years in power, usually by force, repression and electoral fraud. The different movements of the democratic opposition do not have an environment to emerge as an alternative policy. All institutions in charge of the democratic process are in the hands of relatives or friends of the founding president and leader of the state ruling party. In short, democratic freedoms are violated: between imprisoned, murdered journalists, members of civil society killed or imprisoned, marches and other public events of the opposition and civil society are systematically prohibited.
b) the widespread corruption of the ruling oligarchies
This is reflected by the overwhelming poverty of the population and a chronic shortage of critical infrastructure. The state resources are diverted to a clique of corrupt leaders who cling against all odds to be in violation of the sovereignty and the right to citizenship of the people as expressed and embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Peoples of 1948. The case of ill-gotten gains, which highlighted the massive diversion of public funds at the expense of development in the sub-region is indicative of poor governance afflicting the majority of our states.
Given this general fact, and taking into account the global context marked by profound changes characterized by the willingness of people to aspire to the well-being and freedom, Gabonese civil society has the same legitimate aspirations of democracy and good governance for social justice, and is seizing the opportunity of the celebration at the moment, in Libreville, of the Ninth Plenary Assembly of the ACERAC to bring to the attention of your excellencies, which follows:
Since the advent of democracy, Gabon country remains haunted by the evils of all kinds:
In social terms, the cost of living has increased considerably, while the living conditions have not changed at all (over 80% of the population languishing below the poverty line). This fact, since 1990 is reflected by turmoil in the social sector, characterized by incessant strikes, synonymous with a growing unease without people in power with PDG (ruling party), in place for 43 years, to review their policy in social planning.
On the political side, democracy as desired by the people during the Sovereign National Conference, is fictitious. Since 1990, Gabon has no reliable electoral register and could not, despite the enormous resources allocated for this purpose to date, hold elections without them ending up in violent protests with the often dramatic consequences for many families in Gabon. This was the case with the last Presidential elections that plunged the country into a severe political crisis.
On the economic front, despite the immense wealth that the country abounds, the benefits reach only a caste of people clung to power for 43 years, while the majority of people are dying in misery indescribable.
Notwithstanding the apocalyptic vision, the Church of Gabon in contrast to her sisters in Africa in general, especially those of Central Africa remains in a guilty silence which makes it de facto a tacit accomplice erected in the arbitrary mode of governance in Gabon. This attitude contrasts with the tasks entrusted to the Church, as recommended by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who asked his apostles to be "the light of the world and salt of the earth" (Matthew 5: 13 -16).
Indeed, how to understand that "the duty of Truth", the Church of Gabon prefers to keep quiet? Faced with "the duty of justice," is the Church of Gabon choosing resignation?
When all analysis are done, it seems appropriate to ask your Excellencies more attention and a strong involvement of the Church in building a true democracy and the establishment of good governance in Gabon, as required by the civil society which the Church is full with our members.
Armed with all of these arguments, the Gabonese civil society, hereby wishes to inform you of its determination to establish a true democracy in Gabon. The declaration of 29 June 2011 on the electoral process and democratic governance in Gabon summary in 13 points is a perfect illustration of this desire:
1. Fundamentally reform the Constitutional Court;
2. Revision of the electoral law;
3. Reforming the National Council for Communication;
4. Reform the Autonomous National Electoral Commission and Permanent (CENAP) by integrating the members of civil society;
5. Reduce the presidential term to five years, renewable once;
6. To make sure the military votes out side their barracks as all citizens and civil
7. Back to elections in two rounds;
8. Proceed with redistricting, taking into account the factor of democracy;
9. Partners of development (including the international community) be involved in the process of electoral transparency;
10. Introduce biometrics into the making of the electoral register;
11. Open the public media to all actors or people in the nation;
12. Amend the Constitution by referendum to incorporate all the reforms;
13. Set up a tripartite commission majority / opposition / civil society responsible for the implementation of all reforms.
We think rightly, that these 13 proposals made by civil society are the prerequisites for achieving "a peaceful change of government without bloodshed." To this end, Gabonese civil society comes writes this open letter, asking the Church of Gabon, as a consciousness-raiser and a spur of the society to resume its historical place in order to lead the fight for social justice and good governance, ensuring the harmonious development of the country and well being of the people of Gabon.
Following His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the Great apostle of modern times, tireless advocate of the oppressed, "fear not", "go in hope," "Church of Gabon get up and walk! ".
With that, may the Lord our God bless you and allow you a safe return to your respective missions in Peace and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Libreville July 9, 2011