DADA, the Diaspora Action for Democracy in Africa, is actively keeping track of the ongoing occurrences within the Gabon general elections. The Gabonese citizens are eagerly awaiting the final outcome of the August 2023 election. Our strong belief is centered on the notion that the electoral process should be founded on fairness and transparency, recognizing that only such an approach can pave the way for effective governance and an enhanced well-being for the people of Gabon. The available information is somewhat disconcerting, prompting DADA to reaffirm its dedication to closely monitor the evolving developments associated with the Gabonese August 2023 election. It has been observed that the Gabonese government has implemented a nationwide curfew and interrupted internet access as the voting process nears its conclusion during these critical national elections.
Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, the communications minister of the Central African nation, announced via state television the implementation of a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., citing the necessity to curtail internet access indefinitely due to concerns over potential violence and the dissemination of false information.
This declaration followed the conclusion of voting where citizens cast their ballots to choose new local leaders, national legislators, and the next president of Gabon.
Ali Bongo Ondimba, the current president seeking a third consecutive seven-year term, aims to uphold a political dynasty that has spanned 55 years. He ascended to power in 2009 after the passing of his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for a remarkable 41 years.
Bongo, aged 64, narrowly secured his current term in 2016 amidst turbulent protests. In the present year, the opposition rallied behind his main contender, economics professor Albert Ondo Ossa, just a week before the Saturday elections.
With around 847,000 eligible voters participating on Saturday, citizens in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, expressed frustration at the delayed opening of polling stations. Although voting was scheduled to commence in the morning, many sites remained unopened by 2 p.m.
Ballack Obame, a former student leader, shared, “I’ve finally voted. I’ve been here since 6 a.m. It was at 12 noon that I was able to vote, because the polling station opened at 11 a.m.” Meanwhile, Théophile Obiang, a pensioner leaning on his cane, lamented, “I’ve never seen an election in Gabon that doesn’t start before 10 o’clock. It’s really sad. I’m going home.”
Despite these delays, authorities did not provide explanations or a timeline for result announcements. Paulette Missambo, who withdrew from the presidential race in favor of independent candidate Ossa, emphasized the importance of voters benefiting from the 10-hour period granted by electoral law.
Ossa’s campaign centers on breaking away from the existing status quo. He pledged to dissolve the National Assembly, redraw electoral boundaries, and initiate a new legislative election to establish a government committed to addressing economic inequality if he were elected.
Speaking after casting his ballot at a Libreville school on Saturday afternoon, Ossa asserted, “Sixty years in power is too much. I’m not afraid of (President Bongo).”
Since Gabon’s return to a multi-party system in 1990, each election has been marred by violence. Following the 2016 elections, clashes between government forces and protesters resulted in four deaths, according to official figures, although the opposition claims the toll was significantly higher.
Considering the risk of post-electoral unrest, many residents in the capital city chose to visit their families in various regions or even left Gabon altogether. Some residents also chose to stockpile resources as a precautionary measure.