vendredi 28 octobre 2011

#Gabon: Paulette Oyane Ondo before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (extract)

Extract from the intervention of Paulette Oyane ONDO (lawyer) on October 19th, on the sidelines of the 50th Session of States members of the African Commissionon Human and Peoples’ Rights held in Banjul, Gambia, October 24th to November 7th, 2011.

Paulette O. Ondo, Lawyer and political leader in Gabon

The situation of human rights and democracy has not improved significantly in Central Africa in thirty years of existence of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’s Rights, despite the conversion to multipartism in this african sub-region in the 90’s.

I say, without risk of being contradicted, that the governance rules in force in the sub-region (Central Africa) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter.

For example, the human resource in all countries of the region is managed on an ethnic basis, hence access to promotion for an individual is dependent, not on merit or intrinsic value, but on its place of birth and mother tongue. In Gabon, this management of human resources is known as “geopolitics” and applied in all aspects of life in the nation, even the smallest thing.

The human resource is basically managed on a discriminatory basis (in Central Africa). However, discrimination is prohibited by the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Economic, social and cultural rights are not either guaranteed to the populations of Central Africa.

In Gabon, for example, 500 women die during child birth each year. Life expectancy has fallen to less than 50 years. Many communities lack school and health facilities.

However, the Central African region is the richest in natural resources in Africa, but paradoxically it is the less developed region. One that no progress is made in terms of infrastructures for development (except Equatorial Guinea, which is doing a great job in this area), human development, democracy and respect for human rights.

Gabon is a prime example of this paradox. Here is a country that is not only geographically small, but which also has a low population number of just 1.5 million inhabitants. It is a country with vast natural resources of any kind. However, Gabon is not able to feed its children. All that the Gabonese consume is imported. The road infrastructure is nonexistent. The education system is so flawed that most parts of the country have no school. The health system is so faulty that it is not uncommon within a radius of 100km to find no health facility. Water and electricity are luxury goods, etc.

This dramatic situation experienced by the populations of Central Africa is the result of the foundation and operation of political power.

Indeed, the state and all institutions were not designed or do not work for the common good, their only purpose is to keep the same political regimes in power.

It's that parliaments do not play their original role of representatives of the people, but strangely provide services to the Executive, which makes vain the principle of separation of powers.

Proponents of political regimes monopolize and confiscate all the national wealth for their personal enjoyment, to the detriment of the majority languishing in unspeakable misery.

As a result, the mechanisms of democracy and respect for and protection of human rights are impossible to apply in Central Africa with the current institutions.

This blocking of political life, confiscation of wealth and exclusion of the majority of the population by the minority who holds the reins of power usually results in the dramatization of public life at election time.

However, we must recognize that the foundation and functioning of the institutions in Central Africa as impediments to implementation of the rules of democracy and respect for human rights, should be added to some extent the fact that it did not happen what Jean Jacques Rousseau called the transformation of society of individuals to citizens.

There are more people than citizens in Central Africa. A citizen is an individual who is aware of his rights, that feels carrying the fate of his country and therefore does not accept non sense ("about anything"). A citizen is quick to demand accountability from its rulers and to punish them if their policies cause damage to his dignity, his development and well being.

In Gabon, unfortunately, after 50 years of independence, vast majority of gabonese have not become citizens. They are just people who accept everything and anything (non sense). In some cases, they are not even aware of their rights, while in other cases they do not dare demanding respect of their rights. They are so mithridatized they are satisfied before any event, even the more tragic by saying, "what can we still do", translation of a disconcerting fatalility statement.

In conclusion, the combination of design and operation of political power and mithridatization of the population that gave rise to the backwardness of Central Africa, which has consequences in terms of violations of human rights and the democratic deficit that we will discuss by country by country.


Gabon is probably the country showing the most dramatic situation in Central Africa:

- Since the 2009 presidential election, all persons merely suspected of not supporting the election of the current President of Gabon have lost their jobs.

- Today, in addition to the so-called “geopolitics” (gabonese leader’s way to govern people base on their province of origin and ethnicity), exclusion, stigmatization and ostracisassion of part of the Gabonese population tend to become institutionalized in violation of the rule of non-discrimination under the Charter (on human and peoples’ rights).

-In December 2010, Gabon undertook the revision of the Constitution, without first obtaining national consensus as required by the African Charter on Democracy which is a subsequent text of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, thus undermining basic democratic practices.

-May 1st  2011, five trucks of about one hundred heavily armed gendarmes (sort of military policemen) each, have invested my village called Kumasi located in northern Gabon; they fired shots, vandalized my home and desecrated the grave of my father. Such abuses are prohibited by the provisions of the Charter.

-Marc Ona Essangui, 2009 Goldman Prize, defender of human rights is the subject of systematic threats, harassment by incessant anonymous phone calls and vilification in the pro-government press.

-In the same month, the National Council for Communication has suspended the publication of the weekly newspapers "ECHOES OF THE NORTH" (Echos du Nord) and "The Nation" (La Nation).

-In July 2011, Mr. Désiré ENAME, Managing Editor of the weekly "ECHOES OF THE NORTH"  was kidnapped and held by the Police Judiciaire (Judiciary Police).

-More than six months ago, the Ministry of Interior dissolved the National Union (Union Nationale), an opposition political party. However, the dissolution of a political party by a government is totally inconceivable by law, even if that we have to apply only the so-called “rule of parallelism” (of forms). In fact, only the one who made that can undo. Moreover, modern history teaches us any way of dissolution of a political party. Political regimes against liberties usually ban activities from parties they consider embarrassing, but do not dissolve them. Even during the apartheid (in South Africa), one of the worst political regimes that the world has brought to life did not dissolve the ANC (of Nelson Mandela), it was forbidden to exercise. Gabon's political regime has managed to do worse than apartheid, and of course, violated the Charter provisions on freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly, including civil and political rights of members of the National Union.

-In August 2011, during the parliamentary recess, the President took two ordinances to amend the electoral law in the privacy of his office. All those changes are violations of civil and political rights, including fundamental freedoms.

-To have threatened to exercise their rights to strike, members of the teachers' union called CONASYSED were suspended without wages for nearly two years, thus undermining freedom of association, the right to strike, the right to work and all rights interdependent to the latest; all those rights are guaranteed and protected by the Charter (on human and peoples’ rights).

- Since 2010, the government has turned hundreds of Gabonese to homeless people by making wild expropriations, without compensation or even warning. This has caused many deaths and injuries. In fact, expropriations are considered gross violations of human rights in that they violate the right to housing which is a human right protected by the Charter.

-Two days ago, the National Council for Communication has suspended publication of newspapers "Ezombolo" and "La Griffe" (Claws), thus undermining freedom of expression guaranteed and protected by the Charter.

-Two weeks ago, representatives of Amnesty International were expelled from Gabon.

-To top it off, it should be noted that Gabon has not submitted any report to the Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Gabon has that sad record within the African nations’ community, given that it is a son of Gabon, Mr. Isaac Nguema, who was the first President of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Paulette Oyane in Banjul, October 2011

(Free translation by Citoyen Libre Gabon)

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