Gabon-France spat could boost opposition


Gabon this week recalled its ambassador to Paris after France’s prime minister appeared to question the legitimacy of President Ali Bongo’s election in 2009, Reuters reports:

The latest sign of fraying relations between Gabon and its former colonial ruler follows a French investigation into the origins of the wealth of the Bongo family, which has ruled the oil-producing west African nation since 1967.

Asked during a television interview on Saturday whether Bongo had been democratically elected, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: “No, not as I understand it.” Gabon’s opposition disputed the election result at the time.

Bongo, who succeeded his father Omar, is expected to seek a second seven-year mandate in August and will run against one of his main critics, Jean Ping, a former African Union chairman. Francois Conradie, analyst at South Africa-based NKC African Economics, suggested Valls’ comment could boost the opposition’s chances.

“Mr Valls’ undiplomatic exclamation has spread like wildfire in Gabon, and has further damaged Mr. Bongo’s public image,” he said, while noting Ping’s candidacy also had its critics.

The Africa Research Institute publishes an expert briefing on Gabon by Kamissa Camarathe National Endowment for Democracy’s Senior Program Officer for West & Central Africa:

Prior to NED, Camara worked for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) where she managed electoral assistance programs in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. She has trained over 300 electoral management officials in Senegal, Niger, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burundi, Nigeria, Uganda, Gabon, DRC, France and the United States on electoral operations and elections management. She tweets at @kamissacamara

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