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Gabon: Students Protest, Army Deployed

This post is part of our special coverage on Gabon Unrest 2011

Gabon's political crisis reached new heights on Thursday, as students protested at Omar Bongo University in the capital city, Libreville. Whereas protests last week involved mostly opposition members, the unrest appears to be developing into a wider social conflict.

Currently the official government headed by President Ali Bongo, son of the late longstanding strongman Omar Bongo, stands accused of election fraud by an ‘unofficial’ opposition government. Former Interior Minister and opposition leader André Mba Obame, has declared himself President. Planned protests in the country have been stifled by the authorities before they can take place.

This video from YouTube user AfricaWeWish shows the protest at Omar Bongo University yesterday:

Students’ Revolt

Around 2:00 pm CET on the 10 February, activist Jean-Pierre Rougou who is said to be close to Gabon's ‘unofficial’ opposition government posted on social network Twitter:

Gabon: révolte des étudiants de l'UOB qui refusent de vivre comme des chiens

Gabon: Uprising at Omar Bongo University by students who refuse to live like dogs

Pictures of the 10 February demonstration were posted by Libreville resident Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou [fr] on her Facebook page:

Student protestors at the Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

Student protestors at Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

The aftermath of student protests at the Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

The aftermath of student protests at Omar Bongo University (UOB) in Libreville, Gabon on Thursday 10 February, 2011. Image from Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou.

According to website La Voix du Peuple Gabonais (Voice of the Gabonese People - LVDPG) [fr], an online newspaper managed by Gabonese living abroad, students were demonstrating [fr] because they have not received their 100 Euros (66,000 Central African Francs) monthly scholarship money since July 2010.

In addition they were protesting for the reinstatement of three professors, all members of the opposition National Union political party, who are currently ‘refugees’ in the Libreville United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building with the rest of the ‘unofficial’ opposition government.

LVDPG reports these details about the clash between students and the authorities:

De violents affrontements ont par la suite éclatés entre les étudiants et les gendarmes venus les empêcher de manifester, ces derniers se permettant même de violer les franchises universitaires, car, ils seraient rentrés dans le campus et brutaliseraient les étudiants à l’intérieur de l’UOB.

Violent clashes burst out between students and the police who came to prevent them from protesting; they [the police] even violated the University's charter, because they went into the campus and brutalised students within the UOB [Omar Bongo University].

Creators of the Facebook page Etudiants Gabonaisen Révolte (Gabonese Students in Revolt) [fr], who describe themselves as “stagnating students, lacking powerful parents at the UOB” [Omar Bongo University], posted on Thursday:

les forces de l ‘ordre viennent de rentrer dans l ‘université et sont en train de nous massacrer comme en 1990!!”

Public law and order forces just entered the university and they are slaughtering us, just like in 1990!!

In 1990, an uprising that began at the same university against late President Omar Bongo was severely repressed by the Gabonese authorities, aided by French Foreign Legion forces in what was called “Operation Shark”.

On the occasion of the protest this week, LVDPG shared a video report that was broadcast on French television channel Bfmtv.com [fr] in 2009 that shows the dilapidated condition of Omar Bongo University:

Reactions Online

The news of the students’ protest echoed within the Gabonese community online and reactions quickly appeared.

Referring to the situation regarding the three sacked professors, Paterne Sedryk Magnaga comments on his Facebook profile:

Comme c'est dommage! Au Gabon tu es radié de ton poste quand tu intègres un parti différent que celui du pouvoir c'est de la dictature et non la démocratie.

What a pity! In Gabon you are removed from your position when you get involved in a political party different from the one which holds the power. This is dictatorship, not democracy.

OK L UOB, commenting on LVDPG's article [fr] on February 10, plays down the protest:

arrete votre charabia les etudiants gabonais reclament leurs bourse rien de plus, quel revolte populaire.

Stop your rigmarole, Gabonese students are just asking for their scholarship, nothing more, what popular uprising?

@franklinishere links to the bfmtv.com video of the rundown university on Twitter:

#Gabon:43 years of disasters: See what you can find at University Omar Bongo in Libreville (video-french): http://bit.ly/ifX0Jf

Ongoing Arrests

On Koaci, an African news website, a blogger reports the arrest of another National Union leader in Bitam, North Gabon:

Nous venons d’apprendre l’arrestation à Bitam (Nord du GABON) de Mr BRUNO NZE MEZUI

We have just learned of the arrest in Bitam (North Gabon) of M. Bruno Nze Mezui

LVDPG [fr] reports that opposition neighborhoods of Libreville are surrounded by the authorities:

“Nous sommes pas pour venir terroriser nos populations mais plutôt assurer leur sécurité vis-à-vis des jeunes qui font le banditisme dans ces différents quartiers”, a déclaré un responsable des gendarmes.

“We are not here to terrorise our population, but rather to ensure their safety against young people who are committing crimes in those areas”, declared a police spokesperson.

The following video shows the deployment of military forces in Nkembo and Rio, areas of Libreville, posted to Youtube on February 10 by user AfricaWeWish:

French Opposition Lend Their Voices

In a blog post entitled “Hear the African Youth”, Pascal Michelangeli, deputy mayor of Epinay-Sous-Seinart, a city near Paris, contrasts French President Nicolas Sarkozy's position on the Tunisian crisis with the one he appears to have taken on Gabon's political turmoil. He shares a link to an article on news website Gabonews.ga that says Sarkozy sent his regards to Ali Bongo on the occasion of his birthday on 9 February:

Dans ce contexte politique explosif, Nicolas Sarkozy envoyait ses voeux de joyeux anniversaire au Président Gabonais, tout en terminant sa lettre par un très distingué et laconique… « ton ami ».

In the context of this explosive political situation, Nicolas Sarkozy sent his birthday wishes to the Gabonese President, ending his letter with a distinguished and laconic… “your friend”.

This post is part of our special coverage on Gabon Unrest 2011

7 comments

  • […] events in Tunisia, against what’s become a hereditary kleptocracy of the Bongo clan. Yesterday, students revolted Université Omar Bongo in Libreville, and the army intervened. A rally in Sanaa, Yemen tonight celebrating the Egyptian victory turned […]

  • […] addition, Camarade on Le Post Blog [fr] posted an article regarding students demonstrations at University Omar Bongo, explaining that police are arresting protestors within the campus, in a bid to stifle the movement […]

  • […] addition, Camarade on Le Post Blog [fr] posted an article regarding students demonstrations at University Omar Bongo, explaining that police are arresting protestors within the campus, in a bid to stifle the movement […]

  • Hello fellow brothers and sisters in Gabon, am Douglas from Uganda, tell me how you guys are doing.? What took place in Bongo,s university was horrific but change will come if we the young generation of Africa start see ourselves as people who are sure of our destiny. We should not wait for human beings who are angels to liberate us. If the French intervened in the crackdown on stuedents without understanding why they were protesting like in 1992 then they are the main brain behind all these mess, they are the agents of imperialism that we need to fight collectively and bravely and their should be no boundry in such struggle as long as it is directed to emancipation of our mamaland Africa. Brothers and sisters lets be pan Africanist and we set our selves free. The only thing we must fear is the fear itself once that is done we will either wins or dies but even so, death should be treated as a function of the revolution.
    FOR GOD AND OUR MOTHERLAND (TAIFA YA AFRIKIA)

  • […] East; as early as January similar protests against corruption and authoritarianism were seen in Gabon before spreading to Mauritania, Djibouti, Uganda, Malawi, Swaziland and Senegal. Further north, […]

  • Stuartrcurtis

    Gabon has always been one of the most respected peaceful countries in africa. I urge all persons involved with the unrest- on both sides- to look at what you are doing and talk to one another. Don’t let this great nation slip into civil chaos.

  • […] with the example) has a lot of overqualified young people in its cities who do not have jobs- they’ve made that clear. But having a degree and having experience is not the same […]

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