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Ali Bongo: Can he lose power?

13.03.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
After a brief stay in Gabon during which he presided on February 26, the swearing-in ceremony of members of the new government and a cabinet, Gabonese President Ali bongo Ondimba returned; 72 hours later, to the city of Rabat, Morocco where he continues to recover from the stroke he suffered in Ryad, Saudi Arabia. His entourage speaks of an incomplete but quick recovery, though the prolonged absence of the head of the State and his stays in the country which are limited to just a few hours continue to feed questions about his ability to properly perform his duties as head of state. In the opposition’s camp, voices are increasingly heard demanding the application of Article 13 of the constitution of the country amended in November 14 2018; addressing the absence of the President.

WHAT DID THE CONSTITUTION CHANGE RECENTLY?

The Gabonese opposition never accepted the amendment of Article 13 of the constitution on October 24, 2018. The change in the text gave Vice-President Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou the right to preside over the Council of Ministers and to unblock pending cases because of the long absence of President Ali Bongo who had already spent three weeks in office outside the country.

Indeed, the added paragraph which modifies this article of the constitution stipulates that “In case of temporary unavailability of the President of the Republic for any reason whatsoever, certain functions devolved to the latter, with the exception of those provided for Articles 18, 19 and 109, paragraph 1, may be exercised, as the case may be, either by the Vice-President of the Republic or by the Prime Minister, on the special authorization of the Constitutional Court, occupied by the Prime Minister or a tenth of the members of the Government, whenever necessary “.

The high court presided over by Marie Madeleine Mborantsuo argues that this decision was made in order to fill a gap in the constitution and allow certain tasks to be taken care of in case of “temporary unavailability of the Head of State”. Before this change, the Gabonese constitution conferred on the president of the Senate, the right to ensure the interim in case of vacancy of the presidential office while assigning it the responsibility to organize a presidential election within a period of 30 to 60 days.

A DECISION THAT IS NOT UNANIMOUS

In the aftermath of the decision taken by the Constitutional Court, the Gabonese opposition immediately rose to the crenel. It considers that with the introduction of a new paragraph to satisfy the Bongo clan, the Gabonese constitution has been flouted by the Constitutional Court, which nevertheless guarantees it. The sharpest criticism came from the CNR, the Coalition for the New Republic created by the opponent Jean Ping.

On the side of the National Union where it is argued that only the parliament convenes in congress or a referendum can give rise to a modification of the fundamental law of the country, the act of the constitutional court is simply rude and similar to a coup. A speech that is similar to that of the opposition Senator Jean-Christophe Owono Nguema, who finds the text signed by Mary Magdalene Mborantsuo unacceptable, said he fears that the rebellious people will rise to defend its slandered sovereignty.

WIND OF REVOLT SIMILAR TO THE RECENT CASE OF ALGERIA

Despite the failed January 7th coup orchestrated by a handful of young Gabonese soldiers, Gabon remains under threat of insurrection. On 24 October, an association made up of members of civil society and opponents, defining themselves as the “group of ten”, appealed to Gabonese people from all walks of life, urging them to stand up wherever they are and free the country from the shame. The group, also known as “Children of the Republic”, is concerned about the amendment to Article 13 and “the disorder at the top of the state”. The children of the Republic who have given themselves until March 31 to achieve the liberation of Gabon have in their agenda; scheduled meetings with members of the opposition, unions, and leaders of different religious denominations of the country, official diplomatic institutions and representations.

The state of health of President Ali Bongo has been the focus of much controversy since he suffered a stroke. Despite the reassuring messages from his entourage about the state of his health and his recovery, there is still a lot of darkness around his physical abilities. According to local media, the latest reshuffle that has seen a wave of appointments in the government does not bear the mark of the president. The Gabon Review site goes further and points out that the absence of the national television and several local media during the president’s exits, the images of Ali Bongo carefully selected and published by the presidential press as the recent decrees made public are so many revealing elements that mask a certain reality on the health of the president. These are far from convincing the Gabonese people, as they continue to debates on the inability of Ali bongo to fully assume the office of President of the Republic.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image:google image/Gabon 

 

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