MEETING OF PARIS
How to get Gabon out of the crisis?
Political Group - Civil Society Group - Diaspora Group
June 30 to July 3, 2012
After the National Conference of 1990, Gabon had experienced the beginning of democratization by the introduction of multiparty politics, and it was essential to continue this process in order to build a state of law.
But one objective observation of the political context of Gabon since 2009 is that the minimum conditions for an electoral choice by free citizens have never been achieved after the usurpation of the legitimacy of the people by Ali Bongo ONDIMBA, who proclaimed himself president of Gabon in 2009.
In spite of this crisis, and beyond partisan considerations, the Civil Society, through a Memorandum, Gabonese Diaspora in France by a proposal for joint consultation in Paris, and representatives of opposition political parties, with support of these projects, got together to find the root causes of this situation and find answers suitable to achieve peace and stability in the country.
Thus, was held from June 30 to July 3, 2012 in Paris, a meeting of plural opposition political groups, civil society and the Gabon’s diaspora in France, for a democratic dialogue open to any citizen of Gabon sure to find a solution to the crisis that Gabon has been experiencing due to the seizing of the rights of the people of Gabon by Ali BONGO-ONDIMBA.
I. CONTEXT AND JUSTIFICATION
On the political and institutional fronts
The early presidential election of 30 August 2009 gave the country the opportunity for a fresh start. September 03, 2009, Jean-François Ndongou, Minister of Defense and the Interior, of then the Interim Government through the transition following the death of President Omar Bongo on June 8th 2009, helped by the defense forces, halted abruptly the electoral process and organized the installation in power of Ali Bongo Ondimba.
That Sept. 3, 2009, while candidates in the presidential election expected that the Plenary Assembly of the Autonomous and Permanent National Electoral Commission (CENAP), only body competent decision at election time, to complete its work and report to the Minister of the Interior the results of the election, the latter (Jean-François Ndongou), escorted by a detachment of paratroopers headed by Major General Jean Claude ELLA EKOGHA, Chief of Staff of the Gabonese armed forces, interrupted the work of the CENAP to announce results that have not been validated. The unusual presence of armed soldiers in the working room of the Plenary of the National Independent and Permanent Electoral Commission (CENAP) had neither more nor less objective than the fulfillment of an electoral coup that Constitutional Court will validate later proclaiming Ali Bongo Ondimba winner of the election.
The electoral coup that led to the swearing of Ali Bongo Ondimba October 16, 2009 was made possible by the complicity of men and women who were in charge of many Institutions of the Republic. The President of the Republic and its Acting Government, the President of the Constitutional Court, the Chairman of the National Communications Council and Chairman of the Independent and Permanent National Electoral Commission which should be the arbiters of the transition, by their actions and decisions, they have made possible a process of organizing a succession of monarchical type in Gabon.
From September 3, 2009, the other candidates in the presidential election showed the forfeiture to the Constitutional Court and denounced the election coup d’état. Motions to quash the election of Ali Bongo Ondimba have shown, beyond doubt, the extent of the fraud orchestrated for his own benefit.
The contradictory election recounts requested by the applicants, according to the letter of the proceedings, have never been accepted by the Constitutional Court.
President of France (Nicolas Sarkozy), the President of the African Union Commission (Jean Ping) and the Secretary General of the Organization of the United Nations (Ban Ki Moon) were formally seized of this situation.
On February 24, 2010, the Memorandum submitted to Nicolas SARKOZY on behalf of the Gabonese opposition stated: "... the people of Gabon is clearly in favor of change in his vote of 30 August 2009, an illegitimate power, enjoying a form outside interference, settled in defiance of the reality of the polls with the complicity of internal institutions of the Republic and the instrumentalization of the defense forces and security. "
On July 1st, 2010, the two main opposition groups, the CPPA and the ACR, addressed to the Secretary General of the UN, a memorandum which stated also that "Since the death of President Omar Bongo on June 8, 2009 and the election coup d’état of September 3, 2009 which imposed a monarchical-type succession in Gabon, the political transition is compromised by the clearly expressed will of the Parti Démocratique Gabonais (PDG) to confiscate power in defiance of the rules of the rule of law and the will of the people of Gabon. "
In February 2011, civil society has produced a Memorandum on the socio-political crisis and a study on the analysis of the functioning of republican institutions. These two (2) contributions have led to the formulation of thirteen (13) proposals on the restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Gabon.
Ali Bongo knows he was not elected and is aware of the challenge to its forfeiture. His awareness of this uncomfortable situation, to say the least, explains the systematic use of the army, its permanent presence in the streets of Libreville, repression and widespread violations of freedoms that can be observed for about three years in Gabon and that the constitutional amendment of December 2010, non-consensual and contested by the Opposition, was a major act of democratic regression.
Since the electoral coup of September 3, 2009, the opposition parties including the National Union (Union Nationale) and Civil Society have never recognized the illegitimate power of Ali Bongo Ondimba. They have said publicly, arguing methodically about the justification for the rejection. They seized it to international institutions, and several friendly countries including France. It is thus an ongoing process.
Indeed, the political crisis in Gabon is deep. We have rarely seen such a retreat of democracy and the rule of law. This is particularly evident in the dissolution of the National Union, the first political force of the opposition, the organization of political trials against the opposition leaders and civil society, the prohibition or punishment of any public demonstration or peaceful march of the opposition or simply citizens to protest against injustice, abuse by the arbitrary arrests of independent journalists, by the assimilation of the social demands of students inclinations to political destabilization and by muscular raids on university campuses by the army or the police followed by arrests of students, by censorship of the press and broadcast neutral media providing objective information, by prohibition or limitation of movements (in or out of the country) of members of the opposition or persons judged as such. This list of antidemocratic behaviors of Ali Bongo’s regime is of course, not exhaustive.
Changing the constitution to strengthen the powers and prerogatives of Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba, including not limiting presidential terms; the issuance of decrees and orders drastically reducing the scope of participation of Gabonese in politics and the rights of opposition; the systematic distortion of the role of the National Commission responsible for administering the electoral process and biases of the Constitutional Court are some of the elements contributing to the regression of democracy in Gabon. Today, almost all power is concentrated in the hands of one man. The Government of the Republic is deprived of his prerogatives in favor of newly created agencies and depending only on the Presidency of the Republic. The “monarchy-sation” of Gabon is on completely!
The parliamentary elections of December 17, 2011 were boycotted by some opposition and strongly denounced by civil society. Indeed, after the beginning of 2011 the government was asked by the opposition to increase transparency of the electoral process through the introduction of biometrics in voter registration in order to avoid unnecessary post-election wrangling, and the Government responded to the opposition with the decision that electoral transparency would not be conceivable before 2013, during local elections. The ruling party PDG has gained 114 of 120 parliamentary seats. This scandal reinstated the single party system in the National Assembly where there is only one parliamentary group, compare to five earlier. The people who followed the boycott slogan of the opposition and civil society gathered in the movement “Enough of That” refrained from going to the polls at 92%.
On the economic and social fronts
The economic and social situation of Gabon today is characterized by an impoverishment increasingly growing for much of the population, despite the importance of its financial resources, and by low attractiveness of the investment, and a poor quality of growth. Developments noted in the last three years are quite disturbing in many ways.
According to the annual report of the National Commission for Fight against Illicit Enrichment (CNLCEI) of 2010, based on data from Transparency International (TI) (2010), Gabon was ranked 110th (out of 178 countries evaluated) according to the barometer of corruption, with a corruption index valued at 2.9 out of 10. This ranking, which ranks the country among those who record a level of endemic corruption, is up four spots on the 2009 and is worse than that of 2007 which placed already Gabon to the 84th place with an index evaluated at 3, 3 of 10 according to the same NGO.
With regard to fiscal consolidation, announced with fanfare by Ali Bongo, it was supposed to focus on reducing the lifestyle of the State, Audit of Public service sector and management of public debt.
While purporting to reduce the lifestyle of the State, Ali Bongo has performed to date, hundreds of foreign travel. At a rate of 3 billion CFA francs per trip, on average. For the years 2009 and 2010 this represented approximately 300 billion CFA francs paid by the taxpayer of Gabon.
While purporting to reduce the lifestyle of the State, Ali Bongo has offered himself a mansion in Paris for a staggering 65 billion CFA francs paid by the Treasury, but not included in the state budget.
While purporting to reduce the lifestyle of the State, Ali Bongo has offered himself a fleet of 29 luxury cars for 10 billion CFA francs paid with money from Gabon, public accounts, but unbudgeted.
While purporting to reduce the lifestyle of the State, the Government has bought two successive fleets of luxury cars, in 10 months. A fleet of 4x4 Mitsubishi brand in November 2009 and a fleet of Mercedes sedans in August 2010 paid with taxpayer money.
While purporting to reduce the lifestyle of the state by eliminating some functions and reducing some expenses, Ali Bongo, at the same time has created other functions and increased some functional salaries. Finally, the ruling power took advantage of the fiftieth anniversary of Independence of our country to engage 63.364 billion CFA francs of lavish spending while only 35 billion were budgeted.
Regarding the audit of the Public service sector, he announced the following objectives:
• optimizing the functioning of public administration and its effectiveness;
• improving productivity and performance of public officials;
• achieving budget savings and efficiency of public administration.
Three years later, you always wonder where are the results of the census of public officials presented by its promoters as new idea and has been completed many, many months ago? Where are the results of audits of payroll and jobs completed since the end of March 2010?
In fact, instead of "finding pockets of economy" and make public administration more efficient, there has been, during the year 2010:
• An increase in the wage bill of 55.2 billion CFA francs, from 370 billion CFA francs in 2009 to more than 425 billion CFA francs in the draft supplementary budget of 2010. Or a 15% increase in one year!
• A total demobilization of the public administration because of amateurism, change in daily work schedule, witch hunt tactics, intimidation and a reckoning by the ruling power.
About the public debt, we realize that in June 2009, it was 1,320 billions (1.3 trillion) CFA francs, of which 223.7 billions CFA francs of domestic debt and 1,096 billion (1.096 trillion) CFA francs of external debt. In one year, the State of Gabon increased its debt by more than 1000 billions (1 trillion) CFA francs, an increase of 75% of the country's debt in one year, through over 100 contracts and agreements to indebtedness of all kinds.
The Gabonese government budget is still only to be performed and the various public administration departments lack the means to fulfill their missions. In the meantime, the regime in power uses and abuses of extra-budgetary procedures, to drain public resources that are reduced mainly to finance personal expenses. It is this situation, which accounts for most of the financial pressure that the government can no longer hide and the International Monetary Fund has confirmed that in its report of July 2010.
Contrary to the assertions of the authority, those budget tensions lead the state to defer payment due to gabonese small and medium businesses (SMEs), which forces them to make massive lay offs or simply to disappear.
Among other measures to revive the economy, the government has introduced such measures as: the abrupt and illegal ban on export of logs; the introduction of totally improvised daily working days schedule shuffle (so-called “continuing daily work schedule”); setting up the capital-investment budget at 897 billion of CFA francs; the remediation of the business environment to increase the attractiveness of Gabon.
Concerning logs, at the Council of Ministers of November 05, 2009, the authority announced "the ban, in 2010, of logs exports for the benefit of the local processing of our forest tree species to create more wealth necessary to curb unemployment and especially for young people and women, and to export finished and semi-finished high value-added logging products. "
One year after the country's timber production was strongly reduced and local processing has not increased. In the meantime, thousands of jobs were destroyed. Many forestry companies have already experienced bankruptcy and others are preparing to do so. As we said from the outset, this has precipitated an economic and social cost very heavy for Gabon.
The untimely introduction of the so-called continuing daily work schedule (journée continue) is also a real disaster. In the public service sector, the continuing daily work schedule (from 7 am to 2 pm, with no midday lunch pause as before) was simply transformed into half-day work, with consequences that we know in terms of productivity, quality of service, public health, and family cohesion.
The last three years as been years of creation of public institutions, agencies attached to the Presidency and whose management are associated with or implicated foreigners. This is the case of the National Agency of National Parks, the Agency for Information Technology, Gabonese Agency for studies and observation of space and the National Agency of Great work. These agencies are, in reality, a parallel government established by the Office of the President who completely is beyond the control of the Parliament and which in practice leads to conflicts of attribution.
In addition, the proposed special economic zone (SEZ) of Nkok is the property of Olam Group. The partnership agreement signed with the multinational Olam, property of an investment fund based in Singapore, for the development of this project, is now a state secret. This special economic zone appears increasingly as a zone of lawlessness in the economy, taxation and workers.
In this environment, many investors wonder every day a little more about the real risk now imposed on their investments in Gabon.
As for the housing sector, the government had pompously announced the construction of 5,000 homes per year, three years later the Gabonese are still waiting. In the meantime, extensive destruction of homes has been made without any policy for restitution that is set up to help families affected.
A radical break is needed. It is appropriate to base the civil activity, especially in public life, even on values that can guarantee the establishment of a better governance system in Gabon.
The rehabilitation of civic morality base on core values of Integrity, Liberty, Justice, Security and Employment is an imperative need to restore the rule of general interest over special interests, and to create an enabling environment for investors. Law and Justice must prevail for all, without exception, always to protect the weak and to secure businesses. They should compel those who break the rules and promote those who respect them. These basic principles that underlie behavior and economic growth of winning Nations must be restored in Gabon.
II. WE MUST GET OUT OF THE CRISIS
The Gabonese Constitution states:
Article 117: The republican form of government, and the pluralistic nature of democracy are intangible and cannot be subject to any revision.
The electoral coup that is the basis of the ongoing political crisis in Gabon is a flagrant violation of the principles defined here. The person who, as of to date, is exercising the function of the President of the Gabonese Republic, without having received the majority vote of the Gabonese people, cannot therefore enjoy any legitimacy.
Also, the last constitutional revision of January 12, 2011, which was intended only to strengthen the powers of Ali Bongo is unconstitutional because it violates very clearly both the spirit and letter of Article 117 above quoted.
The republican form of government has been weathered and democracy is strongly in regression. From then on, it is the responsibility of every citizen of Gabon to engage in struggle for the restoration of republican and democratic values in a nationalist or patriotic way. Gabon is not and will not be a monarchy.
The Constitution specifies, in particular in its Article 3, that "no section of the people, no group, no individual may usurp the exercise of national sovereignty." In seeking to consolidate power acquired unlawfully, Ali Bongo violates the Constitution every day.
Accordingly, without delay and by any means necessary, to process of “monarchy-sation” underway in Gabon should be terminated. To this end and following the peaceful character of the Gabonese people, priority must be given to an initiative involving all Gabonese through a Sovereign National Conference.
Chronogram (road map)
Preparations of the Sovereign National Conference
Dissolution of National Assembly
Rehabilitation of the National Union (Union Nationale), opposition party
Rehabilitation of all staff and students victims of arbitrary suspension of wage and scholarships for political issues
Abandonment of all harassment and legal actions politically motivated in Gabon
Restoration of national coverage television station TV + and restitution of its equipment still confiscated to date by the presidential army guard.
Organization of the Sovereign National Conference in Libreville with a facilitation by a high-level international organization.
October 2012-December 2013: Period of Transition
Establishment of transitional institutions from the Sovereign National Conference
Adoption of a new electoral code
Introduction of biometrics with the participation of all political and civil society stakeholders
Adoption by referendum of the new Constitution
Organization of General elections (Presidential, Legislative, Local and Senate)
December 31, 2013
End of Transition Period
January 1st, 2014
All new Institutions of the Republic will have a fresh start.
This is our exit paperwork for Gabon to get out of the deep crisis that has been going on since the early presidential election that took place on August 30, 2009.
For a successful conclusion of this roadmap, we would ask for France, a country that is very familiar with this situation, to help, along with the United Nations, for the implementation of this gait pledge of peace and stability, as well as of an harmonious, balanced and fair development process in our country.
(Translate from French by Citoyen Libre Gabon, as of July 26, 2012)