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Gabon: Students Protest, Army Deployed

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Gabon, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Protest, Youth

This post is part of our special coverage on Gabon Unrest 2011 [1]

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 [2] 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 [3], stands accused of election fraud by an ‘unofficial’ opposition government. Former Interior Minister and opposition leader André Mba Obame [4], has declared himself President. Planned protests in the country have been stifled by the authorities [5] before they can take place.

This video from YouTube user AfricaWeWish [6] 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 [7] 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 [8] of the 10 February demonstration were posted by Libreville resident Carel Dorian Ondo Ellassoumou [9] [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. [10]

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. [11]

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 [12] [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 [12] 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 [13] (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” [14].

On the occasion of the protest this week, LVDPG shared a video report that was broadcast on French television channel Bfmtv.com [15] [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 [12] quickly appeared.

Referring to the situation regarding the three sacked professors, Paterne Sedryk Magnaga [16] 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 [12] [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 [17] links to the bfmtv.com video of the rundown university on Twitter:

#Gabon [18]:43 years of disasters: See what you can find at University Omar Bongo in Libreville (video-french): http://bit.ly/ifX0Jf [19]

Ongoing Arrests

On Koaci [20], 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 [21][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 [22]:

French Opposition Lend Their Voices

In a blog [23] 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 [24] 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 [1]