Gabon president pays full price for organising zombie elections
Appeals by deposed Gabon president Ali Bongo Ondimba to be rescued from the shackles of the military junta that deposed him, are falling on deaf ears. Bongo was deposed on Wednesday August 30, 2023 and replaced by the head of the Republican Guards, Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, hardly a day after he was declared winner having polled 64.27% of the total voted cast during the August 26, 2023 “zombie elections”.
The announcement followed delays by the Gabon electoral commission to announce the election results, fueling claims of vote rigging by the opposition camp led by Prof. Ondo Ossa, who had earlier on claimed he had won the presidential election.
The declaration by the Gabonese center of elections indicated that Ondo Ossa secured 30.77% of the vote coming second to Bongo aged 64, took over from his father Omar Bongo Ondimba in 2009. The Bongo family (father and son) have ruled Gabon for 56 odd years.
The election was characterized by state sponsored pre-election violence against opposition supporters. There was a national internet shutdown on Election Day and a curfew, followed by delays in announcement of electoral results and the suspension of French media channels France 24, RFI and TV5 Monde, accusing them of “a lack of objectivity and balance” in election reporting.
The overall Coordinator of the African Election Observers Network (AfEONet), Henry Muguzi, speaking to Voice of America on Saturday August 26, 2023, had already called out the Gabon election as a “zombie election”, the living-dead of an election recognizable only in form but devoid of any substance. Muguzi also predicted that a coup d’etat was in the offing if the Bongo regime continued to push through with its actions of raping democracy.
On Wednesday August 30, 2023, a group of 12 senior Gabonese military officers appeared on television channel Gabon 24 and announced that they were cancelling the results of the election on grounds that it lacked transparency and credibility in all aspects. They dissolved “all the institutions of the republic” having taken over power.
Subsequently president Bongo was placed under house arrest and has since been using social media calling upon the people to make noise for him and the international community to come to his rescue.
The secret known is that this is the very man who ordered a nationwide internet blackout in the country, so which internet does he now expect them to use to make noise. Instead, crowds took to the streets of the capital and sang in jubilation the national anthem to celebrate the coup against a dynasty that has looted and plundered the nation for almost 6 decades.
Second, he is the very man who did not invite any international observers to oversee the elections, now suddenly he needs international help? And shouldn’t the electoral management body president not be held accountable for being complicit in suspected rigging of electoral results to entrench Bongo as president?
In 2003, president Bongo amended the national constitution and removed term limits to enable him run for a third term in office and consequently lay the foundation of serving as president for life. The traditional two-round ballots were also changed to single-round ballots.
This means that instead of requiring that the winner obtain a majority, all that is needed for Bongo to be re-elected is a plurality. This means a majority could be less than 50%, as long as the winner has the most votes.