Gabon: Landslide Win for Africa's Longest Serving President

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
November 30, 2005


Omar Bongo, president of Gabon since 1967, has won a landslide victory at the polls, securing a further seven years at the helm of the small oil-producing nation.

Already Africa's longest serving president after 38 years in office, Bongo garnered almost 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential ballot, according to official results announced on national television late Tuesday.

Bongo swept up 79.21 percent of votes cast, leaving his closest rival, Pierre Mamboundou, trailing with 13.57 percent.

"And so, Omar Ondimba Bongo has been re-elected," declared Interior Minister Clotaire-Christian Ivala.

Mamboundou and third place candidate, Zacharie Myboto, claimed massive fraud, but the 30-odd international observers who monitored the poll signed off broad approval.

"The vote passed off well, all in all," said Cheikh Gueye, a Senegalese election observer for the International Organisation for French-speaking countries (OIF). He noted however that polling stations in some regions opened late due to the delayed arrival of ballot boxes or officials.

According to results from the National Electoral Commission, turnout was 63.29 percent, or 351,000 of the 555,000 eligible voters in the country of 1.5 million people.

But a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, estimated that no more than 30 or 35 percent of voters participated in Bongo's third re-election since the adoption of multi-party politics in 1990.

Bongo worked hard and spared no expense in his campaign to secure re-election.

In September, even before an election date had been set, the head of state announced that he would make public schooling free. Three weeks later, he offered a month's worth of free water and electricity to 100,000 households. And he was generous with his supporters at political rallies.

Some 40 percent of Gabonese are unemployed and between 60 and 70 percent of the population live below the poverty line, according to Fidele Pierre Nze-Guema a sociology professor at the main university in the capital Libreville.

"But the government has the tools to address these social challenges," said Nze-Guema.

Gabon, sandwiched between Congo and Cameroon, is relatively rich compared to other countries in the region principally because of the 250,000 barrels of oil pumped out of the Gabonese ground each day.

But some are sceptical that the 69-year-old president will take economic development forward.

On the streets of Libreville, Sylvianne Aleka, a 30 year old mother, was despondent. "I know that with the re-election of Omar Bongo nothing is going to change in the next seven years because he didn't do a great deal before to address real problems, other than give out the odd small gift."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Bongo's re-election sparks riot
02/12/2005 08:52 - (SA)
Libreville - Police in Gabon clashed on Thursday with protesters called into the streets by opposition leaders disputing President Omar Bongo's re-election for another seven-year term.
Several hundred people begun the march outside a Libreville hotel, where Pierre Mamboundou and Zacharie Myboto said they refused to "recognise the validity of the election" held on Sunday.
Bongo, who had ruled the oil-rich former French colony in west Africa since 1967, was declared the winner by the Constitutional Court.
His two main rivals cried foul shortly after the poll ended a campaign dominated by his Gabonese Democratic Party machine.
Riot police attack marchers
According to reports, a few hundred metres from the hotel, police in riot gear attacked marchers, including women, with batons and tear gas.
Police made 23 arrests and a number of people were injured. Two journalists were also briefly detained, including an AFP correspondent.

Myboto, a former government minister who quit to denounce the corruption of the country's long-time rulers, said: "We reject and refuse to recognise the validity of this election" because of numerous irregularities.
He had teamed up with Mamboundou, leader of the "radical" opposition, who urged "Gabonese men and women to stand tall and march peacefully to take their destiny towards final victory".
Official court declaration
The Constitutional Court officially declared Bongo won 79.18% of the votes, while Mamboundou and Myboto respectively won 13.61% and 6.58%.
Myboto said: "Our compatriots should defend the legitimacy of the poll", adding that the authorities should be forced to "give back the results they have again stolen".
On Tuesday, as the interior ministry announced Bongo's victory before the official court declaration, Mamboundou was claiming victory for himself.
He said on Thursday: "The people themselves already know what they have to do."
Results 'illegitimate'
The candidates didn't outline how they intended to overturn a result they considered illegitimate, instead telling a joint press conference they would present the "real figures" to the Constitutional Court.
The conference begun two and a half hours late after riot police sealed off the town centre and surrounded the hotel.
Opposition leaders spent an hour negotiating with police, as Gabon's state prosecutor acted as mediator.
Tensions ran high, with hundreds of opposition supporters milling around the hotel. After the march begun, the protesters were still not sure what direction to take - but police moved in.