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|Updated: 18.12.2012 15:51|
Neue Regierung - alte Probleme: massiver Protest der sozialen Bewegungen
Der Präsident hat ein neue Kabinett ernannt - wieder einmal. Die Probleme der Menschen in Gabun haben sich nicht verändert: Kinder, die trotz bestandener Tests keinen Platz in der Schule finden, Preise die regelrecht explodieren, Krankenhäuser die nur als Wartesaal für den Friedhof funktionieren, Gewalt durch das Bandenwesen religiöser Sekten, die mit der Politik eng verbunden sind und - wie anderswo in Afrika auch - ein Öl- und Erzboom, dessen Erträge verschwinden. Die gemeinsame Erklärung "Gabonese popular grievances" der Publish What You Pay Coalition, der Coalition against High Living Costs in Gabon, der Coalition against sectarianism in Gabon und der The Environment Gabon platform vom 9. Januar 2008.
Gabonese popular grievances
The new government: beyond politicking, the challenge of good governance
Since the address to the nation by the Head of State on the occasion of his forty years in power, civil society remains between hope and skepticism. And in the evening of December 28, 2007, the announcement of the new government team raised serious concerns. Indeed, beyond the fact that there are an excessive number of ministers in the government, an issue in itself often publicly criticized, we face the return of irremovable and other unconditionally loyal politicians.
But it is well known in scientific domain that an experiment reproduced under unchanged conditions, produces the same results. Moreover, forty years later, the Gabonese have developed their own opinion on this practice of government making. Let's say it clearly, we are used to these stormy announcements of change that produce no effect whatsoever on the daily lives of people. So, we try to ponder. Certainly, there should be a priori no illusion about yet another reshuffled and renamed government team. But our duty as citizens gives us a responsibility to be truthful. Pending the roadmap for this new government, which as usual will be dictated by the French government, we wonder about the real challenges concerning transparency and good governance. We recall that since 2005, three letters of encouragement have not been sufficient to boost 2 different governmental teams, which were too busy parading their allegiance to the benefactor, while the increase in poverty was out of control.
Some facts can illustrate this inaction:
- While the marketing of Gabonese oil (profit oil) remains a nebulous business understood only by a privileged few, the ultimate beneficiaries of the revenue of our natural resources are still waiting that the Gabonese government provides the real financial situation after 3 three years of extraordinary, non-planned earnings from natural resources. A barrel of oil at $ 100 US amounts to a considerable value and the real trade earnings at these price levels deserve to be published. We will never tire of saying that all our resources must be exploited in the exclusive interest of the people.
- Since 1990, huge sums have been swallowed up by the organization of elections in Gabon. It should be noted that our failure to renew the political elite is the source of disaffection of the electorate as demonstrated by the low turnout at the last elections, and a crisis of representation characterized by the disconnections between the representatives and their constituents. In fact, this money was used to subvert the process of democratization and consolidate corrupted political elite to the detriment of the people's welfare. It is a facet of the looting of our revenues that we must have the courage to fight.
- We go into debt to make the roads, to build health centers and schools. But there is always enough money to fund the elections, covering the operational costs of an unproductive and oversized parliament; there is always enough money to create new ministerial portfolios, but not enough to heal, educate or house the Gabonese. We must have the courage to fight such injustices.
- We must express our outrage when the Ministry of Education said in August 2007 that there are no facilities for children which had been officially admitted to the entry test for the secondary school (/sizième/). These children, victims of our education system, issued from low income families, have been shamefully parked in unaccredited private institutions. This is unacceptable.
- We must protest when, in the health centers of Gabon, doctors can afford to ruin the existence or take the lives of some of our compatriots, and where health facilities are becoming butcheries, or simply obituaries, or worse marketplaces inaccessible to the poor. This is not worthy of Gabon.
- We must rise against that sectarianism that endangers our families and our institutions, and constitutes a serious threat to the moral, psychological and spiritual balance of the Gabonese. Society must protect its members against religious groups and places of worship turned into centers of brainwashing, moral depravation and economic exploitation of followers. But can we put an end to such practices if there is connivance between these pseudo-religious leaders and some political and administrative elites? In other words, how can we combat these politico-religious mafias when it is a well-known fact that churches are used as electoral pools?
- Another peculiar fact deserves our full attention; it is the employment in Gabon. Indeed, our leaders are unable to promote a genuine national employment policy. Where, in other lands, employment policies facilitate the insertion of non-skilled labor, in Gabon the rule is that preference is given to foreign labor under the indifference of our leaders. Entire sectors such as service stations, taxi services, private guard services, sectors of national commerce have become the exclusive areas of nationals of certain foreign countries. This encourages tax evasion and accentuates the fragility of many households in Gabon. Thus, without even realizing it, we give up an important part of our sovereignty. Therefore, despite the increase in the minimum wage, the Gabonese have seen their purchasing power eroded, poverty increasing, and the persistence of inflation of various origins.
Following successive increases in fuel prices at the pump, due to the suspension of subsidies to the SOGARA, soaring operating and production costs have forced traders to shift price increases onto consumers. The combined effects of microeconomic imbalances and an unfavorable international context have exacerbated household poverty. Accordingly, access to basic social facilities has become impossible for a significant proportion of the population.
- We support that Gabon needs a real tax reform that allows the state to optimize the tax recovery and ensure the interests of both private sector and consumers. We call for the passing of this reform, which alone will enable the adjustment of household purchasing power.
- The urban and interurban transport is a real ordeal for the people because of the advanced state of decay of the road network and the excessive tax burden levered on the operations of the transport sector. We must denounce three main problems in this sector: first the para-fiscal measures which concern all authorities involved in the transport of goods and people. Then there is no correlation between the amounts injected for decades into the road network development and the actual realizations. Barely 10% of our road network is practicable at all seasons. However, no audit is seriously considered to establish responsibilities and punish the culprits of this massive embezzlement of public funds.
Finally, there is a militarization of infrastructure works, characterized on the one hand by the presence of two Army generals, respectively at the Department of Public Works and at the head of the Road Maintenance Fund, and on the other by the direct private gain of the military in construction. Worth noting for the record that the redeployment of military engineers was initially justified by the need to give a meaning to the army in times of peace, namely, by contributing to national development.
As a result, the government had at its disposal an essential tool in the execution of contracts of public works.
- Profiteering and mismanagement force political and administrative officials to maintain relations with specific private operators. Thus, with the sole purpose of protecting their interests, they influence the functioning of the Directorate General of Government Procurement and promote mafia practices of overcharging, tax evasion, patronage and poor realization of public facilities. The living examples are several buildings delivered without any guarantee that they are indeed compliant with the required specifications; offending companies have been offered contracts for new public markets; buildings falling into decay few months after delivery; sections of roads damaged or funded infrastructures never realized, in all impunity.
- Lack of interest in the common good leads our leaders to expose our compatriots to all kinds of abuses, giving the impression that the Republic gave up one of its sovereign powers, which is the protection of citizens against any threats. Otherwise, how can we explain that for nearly a month an operator in a monopoly situation deprives its customers of goods and services for which it is the exclusive supplier, as do SIAT Gabon or CIMGabon, without any political retaliation? How do you explain that the SEEG and mobile phone operators interrupt their services without notices and cause damage to many households and operators? How do we explain what happens to employees of the defunct Air Gabon and the Gabonese taxpayers who helplessly watch the transfer of what is a public property to a private company, all in total opacity?
The only possible answer to all these questions resonate as evident: it's as if Gabon has become a chaotic house.
- The "Rotating Festivals" have been the crime scene of widespread massive looting. Indeed, the latest round has swallowed more than 300 billion of our francs. In the absence of a genuine local development plan, the elected local officials and executives have diverted in impunity the budgets allocated to the development of the provinces, just another malfeasance detrimental to the development of Gabon.
- In such a context, senior politicians and administrators are ready to enjoy the benefits associated with their duties. But nobody seems to bother with their responsibilities. The planned and scheduled bankruptcy of public or mixed enterprises is a perfect illustration of this. Similarly, the failure of restructuring and privatization. Agreements between the Gabonese and foreign investors benefit only the signatories, which justifies both the opacity and systematic introduction of confidentiality clauses in such contacts. The examples of SEEG, SIAT Gabon, Gabon Telecom, the project Belinga are strong reminders of this sad truth.
- We can not be complete without mentioning the misadventures of Belinga. At this stage of this case, we have learned that by demanding transparency and fairness in the management of our resources, we are committing a crime against the sovereign state. Recall, for the record, that as a result of the controversy surrounding the implementation of the Belinga project, the government pledged to review the agreement with the Chinese consortium CMEC. Then, we were pleased to learn from a governmental press release that there would be a new distribution of responsibilities within the Mining Company of Belinga (COMIBEL) and that the shares of Gabon in the COMIBEL would increase. In the same vein, the government announced on 06 November 2007 the creation of a government delegation in charge of monitoring the Belinga project. Note that the NGOs were invited to be part of the delegation. And we have proposed an engineer specialized in Safety, Health and Environment.
To our surprise, meetings and informal gatherings between two of the regular members of this oversight committee have been held in the absence of NGO delegates. To date, no legal text legitimizes the creation and the operation of the oversight committee. Worse, the same politicians at the origin of the Belinga Affair that we have previously denounced have been all to eager to impose their diktats to the committee members appointed by the Council of Ministers. The purpose of these maneuvers is quite blatantly the marginalization of the expert appointed by the NGOs, in order to conduct this project in total disregard of environmental concerns, the interests of indigenous people in the region and more in general the Gabonese. As further evidence, we witness the continuation of construction works for the project ahead of establishing the committee and in absence of any environmental impact studies. We have pictures showing paths created through the forest to the Kongou falls. We note that this work was carried out only in accordance with the wishes of some members of the government. But, that they be informed, we have published a documentary that we will make available to the national and international public. This brings us to demand publication in the shortest possible time of all agreements between the Gabonese government and foreign operators in the mining, oil and timber sectors, because the Gabonese have a right to know how their natural resources are exploited and the destination of the revenues derived from this exploitation. So it seems to us that the real challenge in not the plethora or the institutionalized inertia. We are used to these. Instead, emphasis should be placed on the cross-cutting nature of good governance. In a rapidly changing world, we are concerned that the shortcomings of our own system will keep us at the margins of development.
The comparatively less wealthy states than Gabon are emerging with the only enthusiasm and ambition of their leaders. Meanwhile, we vegetate in the search for a safe way and the new man. Here, any aid falls in barrels of Danaide and the quest for progress seems a reiteration of the myth of Sisyphus. And we remain trapped in the vicious circles of indebtedness. We have picked the flowers of destruction.
In this new year 2008, we, the civil society organizations grouped within the Publish What You Pay coalition, the Coalition against the High Living Costs , the Coalition against sectarianism, and the Platform "Environment Gabon", invite the Gabonese to break from the simple lament and denunciation.
We believe that /"with the active cooperation of all its members, the welfare of society can be assured by a system of internal control"/, to paraphrase the philosopher George Thomson. So it is up to all of us to establish good governance, transparency and fairness in Gabon. Some compatriots say rightly or wrongly that they are ashamed of Gabon. We invite them to share the belief that there is one thing that must unite us today, it is this passion for Gabon that pushes us to claim and use our citizenship on a daily basis, that is, the legitimate right to feel proud to be Gabonese.
Libreville, January 9, 2008
For the Publish What You Pay Coalition And the platform Environment Gabon Marc ONA ESSANGUI
For the Coalition against the high cost of living Christian Richard ABIAGHE NGOMO
For the Coalition against sectarianism Steeve MVE
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