Monday, August 3, 2009

Diaspora and new media in Gabon's Presidential election

UPDATE August 4 midnight: Andriankoto Ratozamanana, independent election observer, writes on twitter : @coloredopinions , I can tell you that there was NO INTERNET in #Gabon ... today ;)

As you can see on this picture ( in the Figaro diaporama by Flore Galaud), Omar Bongo even met the former French President Charles de Gaulles.

Omar Bongo who was born in Brazzaville during the time that Gabon and Congo Brazza still were one entity, died june 8. We are now closing in on the Presidential elections at the end of August. Omar Bongo was a colorfull politician who was forced by France to not intervene in the Biafra war. He converted to Islam somewhere in the seventies. That is probably also the reason that Gabon celebrates two Muslim holidays: Eid al-Kebir, and Eid al-Fitr, (Gabon even has a chief of Hajj mission in Saudi Arabia: Yousef Busharah). Omar Bongo apparently also was a free mason just like Félix Eboué. Without Félix Eboué, the highest ranking (non-vichy) French public servant in Africa in 1940, Charles de Gaulle would have just been a footnote in history.

Now that Omar Bongo has died campaigns are heating up. Online activity of the different candidates is increasing. According to journalist Konye Obaji Ori the son of Omar Bongo, minister of Defense Ali-Ben Bongo will easily win these elections because of the state dominated mainstream media.

It is reasonable to assume that Pierre Mamboundou is the Presidential candidate in Gabon that has a chance as an opposition candidate to win the elections. He is an experienced leader of the largest opposition party. One of the interesting aspects of his campaign is the strong focus on the branches of the party abroad. The diaspora that supports him in Senegal organizes a political rally in Dakar. Keep in mind that Mamboundou had been forced in 1993 to live in Exile in Dakar for three and a half years. This probably made him aware of the potential for democratic development that resides among the diaspora Gabonese. In 2006 the party headquarters in Libreville had been burned down and in he had been foced to spent a month in the South-African ambassy.

Ben Moubamba has been ignored by mainstream media, like Jeune Afrique, is also running for President. He lives in France, but insists that he lives in Gabon 6 months a year in order to be legally accepted as a Presidential candidate. He has been in the news because of a letter he wrote against the President in the beginning of 2009. Global voices reports that Ben Moubamba is using new media to get his message across. You can even talk to Ben Moubamba's wife Virginie online, she started a blog too. As Rebecca reports August 1 on the blog of a Christian mission in Gabon, there is NO INTERNET IN GABON. It is hard to see how new media can reach voters in Libreville, Franceville, Owendo, Bitam or Lambaréné if there is no internet. Index mundi reports however that 140.000 people are connected to the internet in Gabon in 2008. Oh well, tedfellow Andriankoto Ratozamanana is in Gabon this month observing the elections on behalf of Free Actors of Gabonese Civil Society as New Media consultant. I hope he will give us some clarification on the existence or nonexistence of internet in Gabon. Apparently there is the "Guardien Angels of Gabon" citizens initiative that aims at ensuring a transparent election process, mmm ok let's see how effective that is.

A very active Gabonese blogger (blogging from Gabon?), Jean Manola, compares Pierre Mamboundou and Ben Moubamba and concludes that both are Presidential material, but that Mamboundou as an experienced politician has the upper hand. Jean Manola has a great blog on Gabon by the way. Some great recipees, for instance "Nyara de la basse Ngounié avec Parmesan- croûte". he also writes about Africa costume Jewelry on another blog. He also writes about fashion in Gabon on yet another blog on which he has a great link collection on African Fashion.

Mireille Nzoubou worked as a model in France and Italy, she also has her own blog where she writes about fashion.

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