Although the ruling party PDG and Ali Ben Bongo would like us believe that all is well in Gabon and that there is no political crisis in that country, the facts show that since the electoral coup that allowed Ali Bongo to become (illegitimate) president in September 2009, Gabon is plunged into a major political crisis. The climax of the crisis was reached when Andre Mba Obame proclaimed himself President of Gabon and formed a parallel government January 25, 2009, which still exists.
The political crisis in Gabon has been called "silent revolution" because it took place at the same time that Tunisia and Egypt were living in historic times, while the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak were being driven out power by their respective peoples. All cameras and all pens of the world media were therefore directed towards the Maghreb and Gabon seemed like a non event. Yet, as the Tunisians and Egyptians, the people of Gabon also denounced the manipulation of polls, oppression, exploitation, corruption, massive embezzlement of public funds, hunger, unemployment and other evils which it suffering for over 43 years that the country is run by the same Bongo family.
The outcome of the political crisis in Gabon, like the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt relies heavily on the role that the Army will play. Some opposition political parties (including the National Union or “Union Nationale” as it is called in french) and representatives of civil society have shown until recently their commitment to a country of Gabon finally free and democratic. The Army of Gabon (same for the Police) must choose between continuing to support a tyrannical regime and undermined the strong aspirations of the people for change and genuine democracy in Gabon.
Lessons from Maghreb and the Army of Gabon
In Tunisia, the Army has, through the United States, built a corridor for Ben Ali’s departure. The Tunisian Army was relegated to second place in favor of the Police during the reign of Ben Ali. It's an Army that can be qualified as patriotic and for the people.
In Egypt, the army, despite orders for an immediate transition of the United States and the European Union, continued to close the corridor for the possible departure of Mubarak said to be the bulwark against the development of political Islam. Hosni Mubarak has still left office under the protection of the Army. The Army has been critical to the success of Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.
As they did in the case of Tunisia and Egypt, most Western capitals, including Paris, would they not be able to anticipate the tidal waves that carry the Gabonese people towards greater justice, more equality and more democracy in the real sense and not just ideals and slogans of principle (such as the emergence of Ali Bongo)?
Since dubious power taken by Albert Bernard Bongo (now Omar Bongo) in 1968, the Army appears to be the guarantor of power with little variation in the changing political context. Part of the Army has been enriched because the generals consider themselves to be guarantors of the struggle against instability, so the guarantors of social peace, receiving physical and financial aid from France, for geostrategic, economic control and energy security reasons. Real democracy and economic management of populations has been abandoned in favor of a false democracy based on political corruption, manipulation, nepotism, embezzlement of public funds and mass enslavement of large sections of civil society. The quiet revolution underway in Gabon gives the impression that the Army and the Police are in an ambiguous and untenable in the medium and long term.
After the unsolved killing of Port-Gentil after the proclamation of the fraudulent election of Ali Bongo, the Gabonese were scared to demonstrate. The change of jackets of some political opponents did not help either to solidify the confidence of Gabonese to the political class. As if some wondered then what's to die for by the bullets of red berets (Berets rouges are one of the most brutal and feared part of the Army) and other mercenaries of Ali Bongo? In addition, the Government of the ruling party PDG is working hard to send the red berets beat people from the moment a small event is organized in a public place. All this climate of fear and suspicion has certainly nipped in the bud bursts of popular demonstrations in public places, it does not, however, destroyed the deep desire peaceful democratic change in a majority of Gabonese, even in an apparent silence.
In the actual political context nationaly and internationaly, the evolution of democracy in Gabon will depend in large part of the strong intervention of the Army or not. If the Gabonese see a sign, even a modest one, that the Army and the police have finally chosen the camp of democracy and the people, there is no doubt that political change (inevitable) will occur in Gabon a pace that has nothing to envy when departures of Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak occured.
The Gabonese army can not continue to play the ostrich with democracy forever. As in Egypt, if the country is on the verge of blood, Ali Bongo retain the hope of saving the fallen dynasty, but this hope of the entire family Bongo will have a very short time if the majority of the Chief of Staff of the Army made it clear to the clan of Bongo as his reign is over.
If the maintenance of a reactionary dictatorship in Gabon was the first choice for France and the hardcore supporters of Françafrique, it's not quite that of Barack Obama's America, even though the first months of Ali Ben to power seemed to indicate that the United States fully supports him. Undoubtedly, parliamentary democracy with alternation is the preferred mode of governance of the United States. Gabonese Army must listen and make the right choice, that of the people against tyranny.
As in Tunisia and Egypt, Gabon Army will decide what the clan of Bongo has accomplished over the weeks or months for a stay and decide whether it should continue to reprimand the slightest manifestation of the people without arms or remain on courts and markets to regulate or punish, if necessary, democracy granted or refused. We know that law and order is a sacred law of the Army. Ali Bongo is their King, Master and Supreme Leader, and the armed men obey him. But as in the Maghreb, the Army of Gabon can not continue forever to blindly obey orders to kill his own people which shows unarmed, for freedom, democracy and a better sharing of resources. After all, the vast majority of Gabonese military also lives in misery and distressing conditions!
Gabonese Army must know that history has been rewritten. There is one thing that is permanent, it is change. Yes, history can turn and give rise to new dynamics, reversing the reports previously considered permanently inscribed in stone or concrete.