Press Release by the BDP-Gabon Nouveau (Bongo Doit Partir?Bongo Must Go), in relation to Omar Bongo’s April trip to the United States.
Communiqué de presse envoyé à divers organes de presse, ainsi qu’à certains organismes étatiques ou para-étatiques.
As a Gabonese opposition movement to the Omar Bongo regime based in the United States, we would like to convey to the American authorities and other US-based organizations our opposition to Omar Bongo’s upcoming visit in the United States. In a press release by ARG Media Services (see Africa News Online, April 9, 1999), it is said that Omar Bongo, the despotic ruler who has presided over the destiny of Gabon for the past 31 years will be visiting the United States where, from April 18 to May 1, he will be meeting with government officials, UN, World Bank and IMF representatives and various interest groups in New York City, Washington, D.C. and other parts of the United States.
We believe that the respect shown to Omar Bongo by the various groups he will be meeting is vastly undeserved. Sitting on the wealth of sub-Saharan Africa’s richest country, Omar Bongo over the course of a 31-year old monolithic regime has brought only misery and dictatorship to his own citizens.
Today, despite Gabon’s oil manna which ranks the country first in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of per capita income, more than 60% of the Gabonese population still live beneath the poverty threshold. In addition, the country is permanently vegetating at the brink of socio-economic bankruptcy and unrest: no health care system, electoral frauds, constant strikes, closing of schools for fear of student demonstrations, media censorship, rampant corruption, military control that keeps the population subdued, rampant unemployment, gestapic methods that constantly abuse the civil and human rights of the Gabonese people, etc.
Because of the advanced state of decay of his paradoxically-rich country, Omar Bongo’s visit to the United States has only one meaning: he is coming to beg for the mercy and generosity of both Gabon’s creditors and the American government. Our position is that no government, no interest group and no financial institution should give Bongo any economic aid, as such aid always means one thing: Bongo and his regime will use all the financial aid for themselves and no part of it will go to development projects that would help Gabon’s economy and the Gabonese people. In other words, any aid that would be accorded Gabon at this time would only serve one purpose: help Bongo consolidate his dictatorship in Gabon, maintain his Presidential Guard of oppression and pay those who help him preserve power. None of it will go to fixing the country’s bankrupt economy.
We therefore would recommend that:
1) No high-ranking American official meet Bongo and that he, as one of the most shameful rulers of Africa for his incompetence and incapacity to run a blessed country such as Gabon, not be given any press in the American circles he is planning to visit.
2) No financial aid be accorded Bongo to prevent him from using it for himself and his corrupt regime.
3) No reprieve be accorded to his government by the IMF, the World Bank and other creditors. We believe Gabon’s economic problems come from Bongo’s mismanagement and corruptedness, and that those problems could be easily fixed with a simple internal re-allocation and reorganization of the country’s economic resources and assets. There is therefore no need to endebt Gabon any further as the country is already one of the most indebted countries in the world. We believe that, as long as Bongo is in power, Gabon should be placed under a severe economic quarantine that would force the Bongo regime to use Gabon’s resources for national development rather than personal benefit.
4) Bongo be asked to relinquish power immediately, and new elections organized that would lead to the emergence a new generation of Gabonese leaders that would save Gabon the hard times that await the country if Bongo stays in power for the next 7 years.
Let no one be misguided about it. Gabon, contrary to what some have said in the past, is not the most stable country in Africa. There is a big difference between stability as imposed by dictatorship and stability stemming from democratic institutions. Gabon is currently a stateless country because of the irresponsibility of Omar Bongo and his regime. Under Gabon’s false cover of apparent stability is constantly brewing the fire of rebellion, civil strife and war. We believe that Omar Bongo should leave power if peace is to be preserved in Gabon: Bongo is not the garantor of peace in Gabon; on the contrary, it is his presence that represents a clear and present danger to the continued stability of Gabon as internal discontent is doomed to grow to devastating proportions due to the lack of vision of the Bongo regime.
We ask that the American government and the various groups scheduled to meet Bongo help Gabon by not giving credit to the fake discourses that Bongo and his regime will be pronouncing. They have been using the same rhetoric for the past 31 years, yet nothing has changed for the better in Gabon. We believe American and Gabonese relations can be better without Bongo and, in the light of France’s failings in Gabon, we are calling for the United States to step more heavily in the equation of political change and transition in Gabon.
Dr. Daniel M. Mengara