Gabonese President Ali Bongo was reportedly hospitalized on October 24 during a trip to Saudi Arabia, raising the prospect of political uncertainty even as his ruling PDG party (Parti Démocratique Gabonais) was announced the winner of the second-round parliamentary elections held on October 27, garnering 98 out of 143 seats in the National Assembly. President Bongo’s condition remains uncertain as of November 1, with recent media accounts citing medical and diplomatic sources that claim the president’s hospitalization was due to a stroke. However, the government has refuted this and maintains that he remains in hospital due to “fatigue.” On October 30, Gabon’s broadcasting authority announced it was banning a private Cameroonian television station from broadcasting in the country for six months after it ran a story reporting Bongo’s death. Gabonese officials denounced the report as incorrect and undermining to “national unity, social cohesion, and public order.”
Uncertainty over Bongo's health and allegations of election fraud levied by political opposition groups, among other factors (e.g. recent Anonymous group hack of government websites, public frustration over austerity measures), may foment unrest in Libreville and other cities over the coming days and weeks. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected near any potential demonstration sites. Should protests develop, clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
Parliamentary elections had been delayed multiple times by the Constitutional Court since December 2016, officially due to a lack of resources.
The ruling PDG party won 74 of 143 seats in the National Assembly in the first round of elections on October 6. Voter turnout was relatively low (58 percent), largely attributed to disinterest and low confidence in the electoral system. The vote was held without major incident.
Travelers in Gabon are advised to keep abreast of the situation, avoid all public gatherings due to the potential for violence, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
Copyright and Disclaimer