Tensions rage in Gabon, one year after the presidential election

Two opponents still in prison, a newspaper banned for two months are the signs of political tensions which are still palpable in Gabon, one year after the presidential election of 27 August.

Bertrand Zibi Abeghe, a former deputy of the ruling party, remains detained after being arrested on 31 August 2016 at the headquarters of the opponent Jean Ping for “disturbing public order”. A month earlier, he had resigned by publicly provoking President Ali Bongo in a campaign meeting.

“Mr. Zibi is a political prisoner,” one of his four lawyers, Jean Paul Imbong Fadi, told AFP.

Landry Amiang Washington, a cyber activist arrested in mid-August 2016 on his return to Gabon, is still being held “without trial and even less questioned,” said his lawyer, Me Francois Meye, speaking of a “crime of lese majeste , following its publications on social networks”.

“Those who say that these detentions are arbitrary, it must be established that they are quite regular, according to Gabonese law,” replies the prosecutor of the Republic, Steeve Ndong Essame Ndong .

According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the duration of detention on remand can not exceed six months in correctional matters and one year in criminal matters. However, the Code specifies that this length of detention on remand can be extended, “if the reasons for the continued detention are specifically motivated by the elements of the proceedings”.

An opposition newspaper, Les Echos du Nord, was banned in June 2017 for statements deemed defamatory against President Bongo and Prime Minister Issoze Ngondet. He returned to the kiosk in mid-August.

At the beginning of November, all members of Les Echos du Nord were arrested after a controversial article and released a few days later.

Immediately after the election, the opposition had denounced several arrests, including Sylvie Nkogue Mbot, a union doctor who wrote a report on electoral violence, and was released in early October.

Arrested on the sidelines of a pro-Bongo meeting in July, accused of “disturbing public order”, three trade unionists were also released in October after three months in prison.