ACHPR recommended immediate rehabilitation
The Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has completed the investigation of the complaint lodged on September 23, 2012 by Paulette Oyane Ondo, lawyer (counsel), on behalf of the political party Union Nationale (UN) or National Union. It recommends that the ACHPR to ask the Gabonese government to take immediate action to restore the opposition party's rights.
The Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has ruled. At the last extraordinary session of this institution of the African Union (AU) held from 19 to 25 February 2013 in Banjul, Gambia, it has passed the ACHPR "Communication 436/2012." In this technical term hides the conclusions drawn by the Secretariat following the analysis of the complaint filed by counsel Paulette Oyane Ondo on behalf of Union Nationale (UN) against the State of Gabon, on September 23, 2012, before the ACHPR which Gabon is a state party since June 26, 1986. This complaint was intended to demonstrate that the State of Gabon, through its Minister of the Interior, Jean François Ndongou, uttering as he did the dissolution of Union Nationale, has deliberately violated the provisions of Articles 7, 11 and 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. In fact, counsel asked the Commission "the prescription of provisional measures consisting of the restoration of Union Nationale until there is a decision on merits before the Commission." In other words, it is pleading to the Commission; in this case, to asking the gabonese government to rehabilitate Union Nationale immediately, until the proceedings pending before the Commission are exhausted.
The Secretariat of the Commission (ACHPR) has followed entirely on this point. They asked the Commission to act in the manner requested by the counsel for UN. In the Secretariat’s opinion, after acknowledging that the complaint of counsel Paulette Oyane Ondo was admissible, because in accordance with Article 55 of the Charter and rule 93 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission, is to recommend to the Commission first that this case is admissible and therefore need to be decided on merits, and second to ask the gabonese government to take interim measures until there is a decision on merits about the case by the Commission. "
The recommendations of the Secretariat of the ACHPR, according to many experts met, are "almost equivalent to a condemnation of the gabonese government on merits". To them, this body - the Secretariat - plays a role of filter for all procedures to be known as required by the Commission. Falling between the cracks are only complaints where violations of human and people’s rights appear obvious and non-controversial by the concerned party. "Otherwise, the procedure is automatically rejected," said a prominent lawyer teaching at the University Omar Bongo Ondimba.
What can happen now? The counsel, Paulette Oyane Ondo, reached by phone on Thursday, March 21, 2013, stated that the "commission will probably hold another session in the next few days to translate these recommendations into requirements and send them to the gabonese government for execution as it recommends its obligations vis-à-vis the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights of which it has been a state party since 1986. " If the session does not take place in the coming days, "the issue will not be included in the agenda of the regular meeting of the Committee scheduled for October 2013," continued the lawyer.
From those in power, one is playing a "round back". A senior political adviser at presidency’s palace, surprised and stunned by the announcement, said Ali Bongo Ondimba understands not take any of that into account. After all, he added, "Gabon will not be dictated its domestic policy from outside." This type of analysis, which stings bad faith, forgets that Gabon proclaims in the Preamble to its Constitution, the commitment to the values promoted by the African Charter. As such, this country cannot do without the application of those types of decisions by simply ignoring “notes of order" of the ACHPR.
Counsel Paulette Oyane Ondo did not have much to say, as she simply dismissed this way of seeing things. For her, this argument "does not reflect the current global political context." Counsel states that the Commission's decisions are usually sent to the UN “for endorsement”. We do not see the gabonese government, which is heavily depending on the outside and which is chasing a good image of respectability at the international level, at a point of relying on NGOs like Transparency International and Reporters Without Borders to have some recognition, to try to resist for long, a decision of the UN asking him to rehabilitate Union Nationale ", quipped the counsel as a conclusion.
The imminent comeback of the UN in the political arena could mean insomnia for lots of people in Gabon. The Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), near disintegration, can completely implode on this occasion. Just as small groups who claim to be the opposition - when they are in fact true "Trojan horses" operation controlled by the people in power to blow the opposition from the inside – will have great difficulties to prosper. The scheduled postponement of local elections in this context makes it even a more difficult atmosphere. Because, given the frustrations experienced by the population, it is not excluded that they will punish severely the party in power by throwing themselves into the arms of Union Nationale when rehabilitated.
People in power are well aware of this fact. And they will try to delay any dateline. It will be a waste of time though. In doing so, they risk reinforcing outside Gabon, the image that they have an unfriendly regime, and thus they will find many close doors in democratic regimes around the world. This is a risk "democrat" (sic) Ali Bongo Ondimba will not probably try to take. (To be continued).
Translated from French, "Union Nationale, la CADHP recommande la réhabilitation immédiate", Echos du Nord, No 172, March 25, 2013