Mr. Obama, Help Africa Help Itself

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Today in Africa, a vast majority of countries are moving forward, some remain instable, and few others are plunging in chaos. Guinea is one of them.

[International: Op-Ed]

Open Letter To U.S. President and Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama
It’s Time To Help Africa Help Itself. Crises In Gabon And Guinea
Holding of Africom’s Africa Endeavor in Gabon was inappropriate

On September 22nd, at a luncheon with 25 African presidents and the African Union (AU) Commissioner, President Obama said a prosperous and peaceful Africa is vital to US interests. A few months ago, during his first visit in Africa, as U.S. President, Mr. Obama highlighted serious and important issues: democracy, trade and investment, fight against corruption, good governance and stability.

Mr. Obama wants to strongly promote economic and social development in Africa, and become a peacemaker. With Gabon and Guinea, he has an opportunity to act. 

Today in Africa, a vast majority of countries are moving forward, some remain instable, and few others are plunging in chaos. Guinea is one of them. On September 28th, at least 157 people were killed and 1,200 wounded when security forces attacked protesters at a stadium in the capital Conakry. Since the death of longtime dictator Lansana Conte, opponents, journalists and civilian are facing daily oppression, brutal and continual repression. And Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, chief of the ruling junta has reversed his original pledge not to run for president in the January 2010 Presidential election.

Only a strong condemnation by the most powerful nation with no colonial ties can work on Dadis Camara, to avoid another massacre and enable people to regain hope.  The United States of America is that power! The world especially the U.S. must support Guinea.  Mr. President, do not let the Guinean people down in this critical and historic moment.

Like Guinea, Gabon seems abandoned by the world. Six weeks after the presidential election there is still confusion as to the outcome. Ali Ben Bongo, son of the late president, claims he won despite widespread evidence to the contrary. The interim government lead by Ms. Rose Francine Rogombe, in conjunction with the CENAP (National Electoral Commission) is about to implement the illegitimate shift in power.

The country is witnessing a regression in democracy never seen before.  People are facing a daily and systematic repression and arbitrary arrests, i.e. the arrest and detention of the Managing Editor of the national Newspaper, l’Union, Albert Yangari for reporting the unpublished number of casualties in Port-Gentil, the economic capital and oil rich city.  Unemployment is about 23% and the number of people living in extreme poverty is rising. Tax and customs evasion remains rife, the debt caused by budget deficits is mortgaging Gabon’s future.  Recently, as an independent candidate, I drew attention to the failed education system, lack of infrastructure and health care inequality.

Despite a curfew imposed by the government, violence and looting occurred in Port-Gentil in the days after the announcement of the fraudulent election results. By the 5th of September, almost 30 people were reported killed. And there are reports of several cases of violence and rape against women.

France's Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophony, Mr. Joyandet, responding to a reporter at the United Nations recently, said, the constitution was not “fully respected." The transgression went far beyond that description. The election suffered from large weaknesses and irregularities, and the institutional situation is not satisfactory.

Recently the constitutional court began a recount of votes, at the request of several losing candidates and will examine the complaints.

As was the case in 1993, 1998 and 2005, critics have insisted that this sham procedure has little chance of success, considering the President of the Court’s personal relationship with the family of the late President Omar Bongo. The recount will not be impartial.

Despite this violent situation, Gabon recently hosted the 2009 Africom’s Africa Endeavor military exercise organized by the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM).  As a former candidate for the 2009 presidential election in Gabon, I deeply regret this operation. It could be interpreted as a support for the “Coup d’Etat Electoral’’, the violence and gross irregularities! The situation in Gabon remains extremely volatile, and incomplete state authority exists in the opposition-dominated region of North West. The defiant capital, Libreville, is permanently at risk of large-scale civil unrest. Yes, the 2009 Africa Endeavor in Gabon was inappropriate.

Mr. President, now it’s time to call for a transparent, fair and peaceful transitional process which will lead to a legitimate and indisputable elected president and a democratic Gabon.  We need a legitimate government, in order to lift Gabon from its current political crisis and effectively address the growing accusations of election frauds. Mr. Obama should pressure the interim president Ms. Rose F. Rogombe to remain in power, run a national unity government, and organize a new, fair and transparent election within one year.

We all know it’s possible. Yes you can!


Bernard Oyama,
Former Presidential Candidate in Gabon.
Chairman & CEO of ABO Capital Group

Entrepreneur and U.S. resident
Bernardoyama09@gmail.com

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