mardi 5 juin 2012

#Gabon: The Civil Society writes to French President François Hollande: Change must happen to Gabon too

Open Letter of Gabonese Civil Society


François Hollande, President of the Republic of France

Palais de l’Elysée, 55 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of France,

Your election to the Presidency of France has been widely welcomed and celebrated by the African people in general and in particular the people of Gabon. Through this exceptional event, we base the hope of a new partnership between our country Gabon, and the French government after 52 years of independence, marked by underground relations characterized by a seizure of some leaders of the state of France on the main instruments of governance in Gabon.

I-Your commitment to democracy

During the presidential campaign from which you were elected to highest office of the state, you have solemnly pledged to promote and defend democracy. You have publicly proclaimed loud and clear your opposition to the dictatorial regimes that oppress their people, which are maintained by fraud and rigged elections against the expressed will of the people. And so, Mr. President, you promised to be with the oppressed, to support civil society and democratic opposition wherever democracy is threatened, and this is the case in Gabon where it is dying!

II-Confiscation of democracy

Mr. President,

If democracy has led a son of Hungarian immigrants to be the president of France, it is through the sense that the «Republic» gives its institutions. It is to remind you how this vital desire is pending for the people of Gabon; in fact, Gabonese living in France had sent on August 12, 2011, an anathema to the then Prime Minister Francois Fillon on his last visit to Gabon, a visit that was an insult to the people of Gabon who suffer deprivation of their fundamental rights and well-being. For 44 years, our country has been facing an archaic political system and it is locked by a clan of incompetents and profiteers making it impossible to democratic change through the ballot box or voting.

This system has always operated by fraud, rigged elections, the results of elections are known in advance, the polling list maintained by a partisan administration not to say family and orders are in favor of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), one-party state, in power for 44 years, one of the last vestiges of monolithic political system in Africa, and whose policies are responsible for the bankruptcy and ruin of a country with enormous recognized potentials, including natural resources.

In this context, and following slogans of civil society and the opposition, the parliamentary elections of December 17, 2011, took place amid general indifference because boycotted by over 90% of the Gabonese population who refused to vote and endorsing a mock election fomented by the party-state PDG whose heir is Ali Bongo, after 42 years of the reign of his father. The voting centers throughout the country were occupied by the armed forces under the exclusive supervision of representatives of the party-state, the PDG. Of the 120 seats of deputies in the National Assembly of Gabon, 116 deputies are immediately requisitioned by the totalitarian party, the PDG, and four other seats are shared between other four parties, two parties of the Republican majority, really to say subservient to the party-state PDG, and two minority parties and dissident opposition.

This election in 2009, Mr President, is indicative of a declining democracy unprecedented in Gabon with a National Assembly of a bygone era because it is composed at 99% of representatives of one party, the party in power for nearly 44 years. This reflects more the refusal by the Government of Ali Bongo to adopt international standards of electoral transparency that could ensure the reliability of the vote and the legitimacy of the sovereign people in a democratic state. In the same spirit of contempt for the people, the government of Ali Bongo pledged to introduce biometrics to local and Senate elections of 2013. This deception is particularly unconscionable that so far, we find a total opacity and lack of transparency of government which does not associate any other neutral expertise and even less that of the opposition and civil society in setting establishment of this protocol.

The choice of the company GEMALTO responsible of the implementation of the biometric device is operated in complete illegality and violation of the law on public procurement which notifies such a procedure must resort to an international open call for tender. We note in this illegal transaction, a fraudulent intention, an act of bribery and overbilling against government complicity conducted in Gabon with a French company. For all practical purposes, in Cameroon, a country of 22 million inhabitants, the introduction of biometrics in the electoral process and civil status from an international tender returned to 7.5 billion of FCFA. In Gabon, a country of 1.5 million inhabitants, with no-bid, it comes to a total cost of 14 billion of FCFA to achieve the same technology. We do not need to be accountants to understand the inconsistency of this operation with this comparison! Given the involvement of a French company in such a doubtful case, Gabonese civil society demands that the French Government opens a judicial inquiry to identify the contours of this scandal absolutely detrimental to Gabon.

III-The antidemocratic reforms

Since the usurpation of power in 2009 by Mr Ali BONGO, son of Omar Bongo, he is illustrated by a solitary exercise of power whose characteristics are:

Reform of the Constitution of 2010 that deprived the Fundamental Law of all its substance, allowing the Chief Executive to arrogate all powers, exerting hyper precedence over other constitutional institutions, to the point that he alone holds the ability to appoint members of these institutions. 

Moreover, this reform offers no possibility of alternation and presidential term limits, noting without surprise the type of governance of his late father during his 42 years in power undivided and without alternation. It provides even less judicial independence and democratic control of defense forces security. To this end, the President of the Republic, without going through Parliament may decree a state of siege or state of emergency when it wants to muzzle any attempt to express or assert any single fundamental right. 

Certainly, the current Constitution of Gabon has been imposed on the people in violation of the principles and objectives of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which Gabon had signed February 2, 2010 and the International Covenant on Civil Rights Policies and ratified by Gabon in 1983. The power of the BONGO in Gabon, which has been for over 44 years, has often sprained any form of mechanism operation to endeavor to make institutional strength which guarantees the rule of law and democracy.

IV-The establishment of a repressive regime

In addition to this anti-democratic reform, Ali Bongo comes off worse by instituting a reign of terror, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:
• The destruction of millions of homes for low-income populations in Libreville since December 2011;
• Land grabbing people in rural areas and the planned destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forests for the benefit of Asian manufacturers, namely the infamous Singaporean company OLAM, for the creation of rubber plantations in own violation of international commitments of Gabon in the preservation of the environment;
• Torture, arbitrary arrests and degrading treatment in detention facilities and detention centers across the country;
• The continuing brutal police repression and violence against student movements;
• The restriction of freedom of expression characterized by numerous bans media outlets critical of the regime as Echos of the North (Échos du Nord), Ezombolo, TV+. Some journalists are victims of fallacious lawsuits mounted to dissuade them from criticising the regime, this is the case of Mr Désiré ENAME who had to flee and take refuge in Cameroon;
• The restriction of actions of organizations of civil society and free trade unions who see theirs constantly hampered by the Government: Trade Unionists have seen their salaries suspended in 2011 for calling for the best working conditions;
• The prohibition of a political party of the opposition and nationwide, the National Union for legitimately vehemently disputed the 2009 election of Ali Bongo and arbitrary prosecutions against many executives and supporters of that party.

V-Your commitment against Françafrique

When you went head to head with Nicolas Sarkozy, and during your first speech to the French people as a candidate elected, we have marked three values: justice, youth and respect for law.

So Mr. President, how would you explain the relationships that inevitably develop between your democratic institutions and those of a country where leaders are not your legitimacy?

For the values that you defend, and for the strength of institutions and the freedom of citizens to be meaningful, must we not first say that those who claim to promote them, leaders, must be credible showing exemplary as you the suggested to your opponent during the debate? But given the litigation that the Gabonese regime has towards the institutions of his country and the people of Gabon, what could justify your tenderness to such ignominy than the dictatorship of Bongo in Gabon? The Bongo regime from father to son has used all the heads of state of France before you were elected to clear itself off of his crimes and his moral, political, institutional and social debts, and suddenly they (the French leaders) are all presumed established or complicity of guilt in this so pathetic situation of Gabon.

Knowing your exemplary morality, Mr. President, were you going to extend the black list with your name in the register of inhuman French leaders that protect dictatorships in Africa?

So you committed to ending the Françafrique, this system of underground relations, corruption, briefcases which allows some leaders of France to continue to ensure control of its former colonies, maintain and install in power incompetent and dictatorial regimes under his benevolent protection.

Yes, Mr. President, we must eradicate this nebula immediately, the African people expect from you a strong signal, acts of irreversible rupture. On this aspect, you had resolutely refused to endorse unconstitutional changes, marked by manipulation of the basic laws for the benefit of African dictators, the presidencies for life, just as topical as inheritance in Gabon because of falsification of the constitution and the electoral code which reads the truncated elections and who schedule in advance the victory that the people disavow, in this case Mr. Ali BONGO.

France must defend and promote its core values in the world, and democracy is one of them that we need to see finally established in Gabon.

The message from France should not vary. The same requirements that are imposed on Syria should be consistency in echoing the regime of Ali Bongo who, long before that of Syria, already saw his father Omar Bongo ruled for 42 years by opposing the introduction of the rule of law and inalienable rights.

If the long-awaited change has taken place democratically and in France as we, African Francophile, had hoped, it is because the wheel of history does not stop. The field of struggle for freedom is gradually expanding in the world, time of change and renewal must be provided for policy full of paradoxes that France leads in Africa and particularly in Gabon.

VI-Support for civil society and democratic forces

Mr. President, Gabonese civil society wishes to establish a new alliance with Gabon based on a mutually beneficial strategic partnership between our two peoples linked by an ancient story of two centuries. This collaboration we want strengthened to be effective must necessarily take into account the imperatives of democracy, civil liberties, human rights, transparency in short good governance.

You are committed to supporting the work of civil society; we sincerely hope that France is more attentive and more active in its support for the Movement "Enough is Enough" whose role of opposite-power is vital to democracy in Gabon against an oligarchic, corrupt and authoritarian regime.

VII-The fight against the ill-gotten gains

Mr President, the fight against corruption including international financial crime is at the forefront of your concerns; we want to see France, under your authority, act with vigor and rigor against the Evil Goods Purchased by African Heads of State at the expense of the development of basic infrastructures in their country with the complicity of certain French banks. France must give no protection to criminals and African financial members of their families holding assets stolen from French banks. As such, futures and judicial proceedings in progress must go to completion independently.

As we pointed out in the transition from the former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Gabon, at the end of last year, Gabon is in generalized despair regarding its primary infrastructures (roads, schools, hospitals, housing). The state administration is riddled with corruption. The government contracts are given to members of the presidential family, supporters of the regime and contractors of dubious morality.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, France should no longer hesitate and compromise with a corrupt regime, therefore, the choice of France must be unequivocal.

If so, intelligence is still a character that allows humans to prevent violence in advance of other solutions, then we can save this episode in Gabonese people.

That is, Mr. President, the urgency to deal with in Gabon, and not the digging notion of «co-development» often used for setting the tone of "political correctness" by your predecessor after taking office in 2007. It should be rather strong institutions in Gabon that cynical defense agreements with France.

We believe that our two countries will have more to gain if the minds of both sides are emancipated from fantasies of neo-colonialism and the syndrome of victimization or African referring any liability to France.
Hopefully this call finally found an ear, we wish you with all our heart, Mr. President, a good five-year term that will see France regain its dignity as a country of noble values, human rights, and consistent with its conception of democracy and the rule of law beyond its borders.

Good luck Mr. President and long live France in its new projections of the Franco-Gabonese relations!

Libreville, June 4, 2012

For Gabonese Civil Society:

Mpaga George, Chairman of the Board of Directors Network of Free Civil Society for Good Governance in Gabon (ROLBG), the first spokesman of the Movement «Enough is Enough», Phone: (241) 07 51 993 2:

Marc Ona Essangui, President of Brainforest; Coordinator National, International Coalition Publish What You Pay Phone: (241) 07 29 41 40:

Dieudonne MINLAMA MINTOGO, President of the National Observatory of Democracy, second spokesman of the Movement «Enough is Enough», Phone: (241) 07948719

Alain MOUPOPA, President of African NGO Horizons of Human Rights: ,, Phone: (241) 06 12 93 78.

(Translated from french by CLG)

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