Gabon: Mourning Unrest's First Casualty, as Bongo Meets Sarkozy

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

Gabon is mourning the first casualty of the country's political unrest. Marie Mendome was beaten up during the January 29, 2011 attack on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) building in Libreville, where self-proclaimed president André Mba Obame and his government have taken refuge. According to several testimonies, Mendome died of wounds caused by police brutality.

First alleged victim of the political crisis that began on 25th January 2011 in Gabon

On February 18,  Gabonite wrote on the social network Twitter:

Une mère battue à mort par les « forces de sécurité » au Gabon!

A mother beaten up to death by “security forces” in Gabon!

La voix du Peuple Gabon (Voice of Gabonese People) on its website confirms the information that the woman died because police violence:

Pour avoir été manifester pour dire non, ça suffit comme ça, cette jeune femme de 38 ans s'est sauvagement fait matraquer par ceux-là même qui sont sensés nous protéger.

Because she demonstrated in order to say enough is enough, this 38 year old young woman was savagely clubbed by the same people who are supposed to protect us.

The site continues:

ayant eu plusieurs côtes cassées, elle s'est rendu dans un hopital de la place où on lui a clairement fait comprendre que les manifestants n'etaient pas les bienvenus

suffering from several broken ribs, she went to the local hospital  where she was clearly notified that demonstrators were not welcome.

The report, however, was denied by the Gabonese authorities.  Agence France Press (AFP) published on February 20, 2011 an article entitled “Death of a woman is not due to police brutality” [fr]:

Le Ministère de l'Intérieur a démenti dimanche auprès de l'AFP que le décès d'une sympathisante du président auto-proclamé André Mba Obame,(…) soit dû à des brutalités policières.

Minister of Interior denied on sunday to the Agence France Presse (AFP) that the death of one of self proclaimed president André Mba Obame's sympahiser was due to Police brutalities.

This caused several reactions from Gabonese netizens. Bantuconnexion on Twitter opined:

Now Official: l'AFP Libreville est l'agence de communication du min. de l'intérieur gabonais.

Now official: Agence France Presse in Libreville is now the Communication agency of Gabonese Minister of Interior

In spite of the polemic, Marie Mendome's picture was used as profile picture on Facebook as a tribute:

Liberté du Gabon Révolution (Freedom of Gabon Revolution) used Marie Mendome's image as profile picture on social network Facebook

Her funerals were organised on Sunday February 20, 2011.

Marie Mendome's funerals in Gasepga, Libreville, where she used to live

Sarkozy and Bongo Meet in Paris

French President Sarkozy received in a non-official visit the Gabonese president Bongo on February 21, 2011. Among several subjects, the two Head of States talked about the “wind of revolution” blowing throughout Africa. Interviewed by a Vox Africa Journalist, Ali Bongo declared that [fr]:

Il ne faut pas faire de parallèle entre les différents pays. Certaines situations sont totalement différentes.

We should not make any comparison between different countries. Some situations are totally different.

During the visit, Ali Bongo and Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the the deployment of the French Military Defense Force in Central Africa, whose base is in Libreville:

The visit was highly criticised by the French environmental political Party in a press release [fr]:

Europe Ecologie Les Verts demande au président français de mettre un terme à ces pratiques de prédation économique et écologique, et d’en finir avec sa complaisance vis-à-vis du régime gabonais qui se refuse à la démocratisation.

Europe Ecologie Les Verts  asks that the French President puts an end to these economic and ecologic predatory practices, and stops this permissive attitude towards the Gabonese Regime that denies a true democratic process.

Gabonese activists also had a sit-in inside a building that belongs to the Gabonese authorities in Paris. Their actions was quickly repressed by the French police forces with tear gas [fr]. The activists were protesting against the acquisition by Ali Bongo of this 140 millions Euros luxurious mansion in Paris in May 2010:

Gloria Mika, a fashion model and Gabonese activist wonders on Twitter about the lack of outrage over the plight of the Gabonese struggle:

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

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