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Gabon: Parliamentary Immunity Removal Could Spark Protests

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

The central African Republic of Gabon has been facing a latent political and social crisis since January 26, 2011. André Mba Obame, president of the now banned opposition party ‘National Union’, took his oath as the country's president, claiming that he had won the June 2009 election which was officially won by Ali Bongo, son of the former president Omar Bongo.

The crisis has since deepened, with protests from students and recently oil workers, despite of the exit of Mba Obame from the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) building where he had sought refuge for a month.

Immunity lifted

On May 5, Mba Obame, who is also a Gabonese member of parliament (MP), saw his parliamentary immunity removed by a National Assembly vote, after he was accused of high treason. This will allow legal proceedings against Mba Obame before a civil tribunal.

The procedure at the National Assembly was initially scheduled to take place on May 4, but in this already tense situation, hundreds of Mba Obame's supporters demonstrated to show their support to the one they consider their real leader. They gathered in front of the National Assembly building in Libreville, the capital city, surrounded by an imposing army deployment, forcing the president of the National Assembly to postpone the hearing.

Jean-Pierre Rougou, a Gabonese activist, has posted a few pictures of this demonstration:

Mba Obame's car surrounded by partisans in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Mba Obame's car surrounded by partisans in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Army facing demonstrators in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Army facing demonstrators in front of the National Assembly, Libreville. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Rougou.

Netizen reactions

On website La voix du peuple Gabonais (Voice of the Gabonese People) more than 138 comments were posted under the article [fr] on this news. According to user AMO Advocat, a civil war would be the consequence of the possible arrest of Mba Obame:

[…] Boukoubi n'a qu'à arrêter AMO si lui et son chef son courageux

Mais les conséquences seront une guerre civile et impitoyable

[…] Let Boukoubi [general secretary of the presidential party] arrest AMO [André Mba Obame] if he and his boss are brave.

But the consequence will be a relentless civil war

Mba Obame claims that the lift of his immunity is a political act which aims at his political and physical elimination [fr] by the current Gabonese government.

National Assembly representatives have given another explanation for the vote. According to MP Jean Christophe Mbiguidi Dinga, who led the ad hoc commission in charge of this case, as quoted on website infosgabon [fr], the lift of immunity will “allow the possibility of Mba Obame to explain himself before the law”.

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

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