Transition Timeline: How Will Gabon Return to Democratic Rule?

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Gabon’s Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), the junta which overthrew President Ali Bongo on Aug. 30 this year, is awaiting the Inclusive National Dialogue which should ratify an indicative timetable for transition in the Central African country.

The CTRI has published a timetable for Gabon’s political transition. Its evaluation will be submitted to a national dialogue chaired by Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, archbishop of the capital Libreville, scheduled for April 1-30, 2024.

As the transition timetable is “indicative” for the moment, the dialogue will enable it to be re-examined by the people, who will validate or invalidate it. It is also the framework for drawing up the new political and institutional contours of the republic, according to the CTRI.

“The national dialogue offers a framework for discussion between the different forces of the nation on the different proposals in terms of laws and economic, political and social governance, which must serve as a guideline in the drafting and adoption of a new constitution,” Abdias Codjo Orisha, a security and defense specialist, told Anadolu.

The whole process is aimed at creating a new sociopolitical foundation, which is an immense task and not one that can be “won in advance.”

What about a new constitution?

The next stages concern the constitution, with the transformation of parliament into a constituent assembly in June 2024, the adoption of the final draft constitution in October 2024 and finally the referendum for its adoption in November 2024.

This work will precede that of the elections, with work on the new electoral code due to start in January 2025, the text to be adopted and promulgated in mid-March, the electoral material to be put in place in July and the elections to be held in August 2025.

The junta seized power just after the announcement of Bongo’s victory in the presidential elections. He won 64.27% of the vote against 30.77% for his rival Albert Ondo Ossa. In seizing power, the military claimed the results had been falsified and cancelled the elections and dissolved all institutions.

“The desire I read among many Gabonese is for the president of the transition to take the time to properly set up the institutions of the republic. A cautious general is better than a bold one,” said Orisha.

Why restore the institutions?

The CTRI accused the Bongo regime of bad governance and set itself the task of restoring the country’s institutions.

“We’re restoring institutions because citizens have lost confidence in the ones that exist,” said Petit-Lambert Ovono, a Gabonese politician and president of the Gabonese Society for Monitoring and Evaluation of Public Policies (SOGEVAL).

In his view, the fight against corruption, which is ravaging the country, requires robust institutions that reinforce transparency, accountability and law enforcement.

He pointed out that for half a century, Gabon has operated with institutions tailored to the sole benefit of the Bongo regime and its power.

He said the restoration of these institutions is therefore “crucial” to ensure effective governance, justice, stability and sustainable development.

For Brig. Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, president of the transition, Gabon deserves strong, credible institutions with clean governance that is more in line with international standards in terms of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy, and the rule of law.

These characteristics create an environment conducive to investment and economic growth while solid institutions help prevent political conflict and maintain political stability, according to Ovono.

Gabonese observers also judge the judiciary to be corrupt and at the service of the powerful and do not fully trust it.

“By declaring the restoration of institutions starting with the judiciary, the defense and security forces who took power in Gabon on Aug. 30 have got it right, and the fact that they have organized an annual convention of the judiciary devoted to reforming the Gabonese justice system is proof that this institution has failed,” Ovono said.

What are the CTRI’s ambitions and challenges?

Although the current government is made up of only four military members out of 27 ministers, the CTRI, which is essentially made up of military personnel, is not standing aside from the transition.

The Oligui Nguema clan says it is aiming for the restoration of stability and confidence, institutional and legislative reform, the fight against corruption, sustainable and economic development, education and awareness-raising, national dialogue, and public consultation.

To achieve this, they intend to take several prerequisites into account. These include getting the Gabonese people to speak again, reducing a colossal debt that has not served the country’s development, responding to the main popular demands to guarantee the social peace that no election would offer, and letting the Gabonese people decide democratically through their representatives in parliament and, above all, in the Inclusive National Dialogue.

Nevertheless, the process as it currently stands has some Gabonese skepticism.

These reforms should not be carried out under pressure, according to Orisha, who believes that “too much pressure for a rapid return to constitutional order risks undermining the transition.”

Moreover, the Gabonese people must tolerate many mistakes, and the CTRI and the entire current political class must learn from current and past errors in order to move forward and prepare for many more, he said.

Many observers say they are satisfied with the seizure of power, but not all have confidence in the way the transition will unfold, fearing that there will not be a major change in the system.

Some say that the current leader, Bongo’s cousin, represents the same system, while others see the timetable as a sign of indecision between the CTRI and the predominantly civilian government.

“This timetable is tight and suggests that there will be many disagreements between the government and the CTRI. The national dialogue may be able to correct this. Oligui Nguema can stand for election, which is not the case for the other players in the transition. This is undoubtedly a good reason for him to push ahead with his agenda, but it also runs the risk of creating a major rift,” said Orisha.

But within the government, things are seen differently.

This measure is positive because it will prevent members of the government from having a double agenda while working for the transition, according to Minister of Information and Communications Technology Laurence Ndong.

The actions of the military at the helm of Gabon are “good for the country,” said Ndong, who is also a government spokesperson.

Other observers fear that the length of the transition will be weighed down by the sanctions imposed on the country by regional organizations and the suspension of aid from other countries such as the US.

For Ndong, however, Gabon is “doing well” and need not fear the effects of these sanctions, as it is doing better than it was on Aug. 30.

In just two months, the government says, the country has repaid all its debt to international and African financial institutions and “is in the process of normalizing its relations.”

Source : AA