In late August, violent clashes in the capital city of Gabon left at least three people dead and a burning National Assembly.
The violence was prompted by the re-election of incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba, which marks the continuation of a dynasty that has been in power for five decades.
For the Gabonese Republic, the re-election marked the end of a campaign that culminated with a narrow victory: President Bongo managed to garner 49.8 percent of votes while his opponent, Jean Ping, obtained 48.2 percent. In most democratic systems around the world, the slim advantage held by President Bongo should have prompted a runoff election; alas, Gabon does not observe such a system.
Supporters of opposition leader Jean Ping strongly objected to the results of the election; crowds amassed outside of the electoral commission’s offices prior to the certification of the final vote count. The angry protests escalated into riots, which resulted in the deployment of soldiers across Libreville.
It is interesting to note that both candidates in this election have ties to the Bongo dynasty. President Ali Bongo is the son of the late Omar Bongo, who exerted power over Gabon for more than four decades; in fact, he is often called Bongo Junior. Opposing candidate Jean Ping is a former diplomat that served under Omar Bongo as a close confidant.
Reports from various news sources paint a worrisome picture of a less-than-democratic election in Gabon. One of the problems is that Haut-Ogooué, the home province of the incumbent, reported 95 percent of votes in favor of President Ali Bongo. This is the same province that has previously reported 100 percent voting in favor of the late Omar Bongo.
European observers did not like what they saw during the election and its aftermath. At one point, Jean Ping was placed on house arrest because security forces accused him of being an agitator. He was released days later after French diplomats pressured the incumbent administration. Jean Ping has even written an op-ed piece published by the New York Times, asking the administration of United States President Obama to pay attention to the situation.
Although President Bongo’s administration has attempted to reconcile the graft perpetrated by his late father, the people of Gabon are not convinced that rule by dynasty is the best for their African nation.