lundi 7 février 2011

Global Voices - Gabon: The Invisible Revolt

My latest Global Voices article on the situation in Gabon. After the swearing in of André Mba Obame, the country entered a period of turmoil, which hasn't been reported in the traditional medias. After Tunisia and Egypt, are we witnessing another revolution in Africa ? Seems like things will not be the same anymore on the Continent.

"Protests in Gabon have failed to make a dent in the international news cycle as all eyes are still turned towards the Egyptian crisis. Mohamed Keita of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)  was wondering if "fake news wasn't drawing real censorship" in Gabon, as he discussed  the closing of the 1st private Gabonese TV channel, TV+. According to M Keita, the overreaction by the Ali Bongo's government is a sign of a deeper concern : what was considered ridiculous by Ali Bongo and his partisans before seems to have created subtantial political turmoil in this little Central African nation.
The rhetorical strategy of Bongo's camp seems to consist of the total denyial of the opposition party.

Sekou Oumar Doumbia, a Bongo partisan, writes on Ali Bongo's Facebook page:
"Continuez de travailler et laissez les ridicules rêver."
"Keep on working  and let the ridiculous people dream on"
Nevertheless, the situation appears  more complicated: In the last five days, the country has witnessed excivil unrest. But IQ4News, a columnist style magazine website dedicated to African related issues, noticed that Protests in Gabon "have gone largely unnoticed by the media because of the focus on Egypt."

Mass Protests in Libreville and the UNDP building attack

Thanks to locally based activists, there has a been a coverage of the events, and the latter was advertised through different social networks.

Last saturday a demonstration was organised at Carrefour Rio in Libreville, the Capital city. More than 2000 Mba Obame's partisans went to protest against Ali Bongo's government and faced the public forces.

[caption id="attachment_192476" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Demonsration, Carrefour Rio in LIbreville January 29th 2011"][/caption]

This demonstration was followed by violent clashes between Mba Obame's partisans and Ali Bongo's Police forces, who were trapped by groups of demonstrators in slums near the place where the demonstration started.

The same day, Military forces were ordained to attack the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) building in Libreville, where Mba Obame and his Government sought asylum. Camarade, a Gabonese activist, posted on his blog (fr) pictures showing some victims of the attack:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="324" caption="Mba Obame's Partisan after UNDP attack 29th January 2011-(c) Camarade on LePost"][/caption]

Voice of the Gabonese people (La voix du Peuple Gabonais LVDPG) reports on its website (fr) that 2000 other persons demonstrated in Bitam (fr), in the North of the country, on Monday 31st January. On the same site, it is said that Riots occured in many districts (fr) of Libreville on 2nd February. In Atong Abè, one Policeman was wounded.

Franklin explains on Twitter :
"Gabon:Crise politique:Soulèvements populaires en cours; quartiers pauvres de Nkembo, Cocotiers, Gare-routière, Atong Abè. Un blessé grave."
"Gabon: Political crisis: Uprising of the people happening now; poor districts of Nkembo, Cocotiers, Gare-Routière, Atong Abè. One serious wounded."

[caption id="attachment_192512" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Meyo-Kye, North Gabon, 2nd February 2011"][/caption]

"In Tunisia, Ben ALi left. In Gabon, Ali Ben Out."

[caption id="attachment_192499" align="aligncenter" width="375" caption="Cars burnt in Atong Abè, Libreville, after riots on 2nd February"][/caption]

Wave of arrest of sympathisers and executives

A dozen of executives ans sympathisers of the National Union (NU), main opposition party, have been arrested during the last five days. published a Press release by President of NU:
"A 5 heures du matin plusieurs compatriotes ont été arrêtés, brutalisés et transférés au camp Aïssa (caserne du Bataillon des parachutistes gabonais), puis au camp de gendarmerie de Gros-Bouquet, avant d’être finalement gardés à vue, à partir du 28 janvier, dans les sous-sols de la Direction générale des Recherches de la Gendarmerie Nationale et ce, au mépris de la loi qui interdit toute garde à vue au-delà de 72h."
"5 am several comrades were arrested, brutalised, and transferred to the Aïssa camp ( Barrack of the Gabonese Paratroopers' battalion), then to the Gros-Bouquet Police Station's camp, before being placed in custody, from 28th January, in the cellar of the Research General Direction of the National Gendarmerie. Doing this they violated the law which forbidds above 72 hours custody."
The Putative Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Ben Moubamba, tweeted this morning about the kidnapping of the son of a Gabonese MP, Alexis Bengone:
"Organized Repression & Brutality in Gabon. Former Prime minister' Son kidnapped by hooded men. #revogab#egypt #tunisia #civ2010"
Some assume that his arrest is related to his online activism. He manages the "Gabao Res Publica" social network, and might have  tried to raise youth with this article: "Gabon: A generation in quest of Democratic sense"."