On the watch list: Gabon

On the watch list: Gabon

Tensions have been high ever since elections in Gabon last August narrowly returned President Ali Bongo Ondimba to power. Opposition

Photo: Reuters/Emma Farge

Photo: Reuters/Emma Farge

Tensions have been high ever since elections in Gabon last August narrowly returned President Ali Bongo Ondimba to power. Opposition leader Jean Ping, the former head of the African Union, insists the vote was rigged and accuses the incumbent of suppressing pro-democracy protests.

Indeed, security forces were brought onto the street amid riots after the release of election results on August 31, reportedly storming the headquarters of opposition political parties. The ensuing unrest killed at least five people and resulted in the arrest of thousands before it calmed in early September.

But Jean Ping has been anything but calm. The opposition leader has been tenacious in his calls for international sanctions to be brought against Bongo (to no avail). Even though it has substantial economic interests and a 900-strong military presence in the country, former colonial power France has resisted calls to intervene. So have other foreign powers, which have little desire to expend political capital in Gabon – a secluded West African country of 1.5 million.

President Bongo has invited his counterpart to attend tension-easing talks on Tuesday, which Mr Ping dismissed as a “masquerade”. The unresolved grievances mean Gabon is a country to put on the West African watch list.