Gabon under siege following protests, WikiLeaks revelations

Riot police in Gabon‘s capital Libreville fired tear gas to break up a protest by some 5,000 opposition supporters on Jan. 29, with up to 20 people wounded in the clashes, including at least one police officer. It was the second such clash in Libreville since opposition leader Andre Mba Obame declared himself president on Jan. 25 and urged Gabonese to take inspiration from Tunisia’s popular uprising that ousted long-ruling Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Obame charges that a 2009 election won by Ali Bongo Odimba was rigged. Ali Bongo is the son of Gabon’s long-time dictator, Omar Bongo, who died that year after ruling the oil-producing country for four decades. (Reuters, CBC, Jan. 30)

Obame’s National Union Party was banned after he declared himself president, and his broadcast station, TV+—over which he swore himself in live, in a ceremony not recognized by the government—was closed by decree. Obame named a cabinet for his unrecognized government, before taking refuge with a handful of supporters in a UN compound. Police have fired tear gas at his supporters outside the compound. (Afrol News, Jan. 28; BBC News, Bloomberg, Jan. 27; VOA, Jan. 26)

According to a classified US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks, the late elder Bongo lined his pockets with money from a $37 million bank embezzlement scheme—and funneled some of it to French political parties and presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy. A senior official at the Bank of Central of African States (BEAC) made the accusation four days after Bongo’s death in June 2009, in an interview with a diplomat at the US embassy in Cameroon, according to the cable.

Bongo, who came to power in 1967 with the backing of France, was the world’s longest-ruling head of state, apart from the British and Thai monarchies. His son and successor was also said by the cable to have “benefited from the embezzlement.” (AFP, Jan. 20; Black Voice News, Jan. 10)

See our last posts on Central Africa and the Tunisian virus.

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