Since Ink Spots friend Carl Prine asked what I thought might be Egypt/Tunisia implications for sub-Saharan Africa, I thought I would dig around a little bit and see what I would find. I haven't yet seen any implication for the current political deadlock in Cote d'Ivoire but I'll be writing about that for Valentine's Day.
Gabon, you might recall, is a small, oil rich, former French colony in West Africa. Libreville has long been home to the Bongo family. Omar Bongo died a couple years ago and his son Ali, was "elected" President.
This blog post (from Accra) explains what has been going on in Gabon. In short, the opposition leader, André Mba Obame, who is thought to have won the 2009 elections that permitted Bongo Jr. to replace his father, has sworn himself in President (January 29th). He took refuge in the Libreville offices of the UN Development Program's (the article says it's the party's HQ but on further checking it's UN offices, see the links below). Security forces violently tried to take over the compound and thousands of students (and citizens) have taken to the streets, not just in the capital but around the country on several occasions since then. In addition, a private TV station was ordered to shut down and the opposition party was disbanded.
As the website Global Voices explains:
Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of the nation’s capital, Libreville, on January 29th, and faced violent suppression from Ali Bongo’s troops. Protests have spread to other cities, and the crackdown against them has become increasingly fierce. Protests planned for February 5th and 8th were both suppressed with tear gas. At this point, it’s unclear whether protesters will be able to continue pressuring the government, or whether the crackdown has driven dissent underground.
Anyway, these stories (here, here, here) describe what has been going on there. But to summarize: the Bongo family is thought to have stolen 8% of the country's GDP but while oil revenues have made a small group of people rich, 30% of the country's 1.5 million people still live in poverty, and it's clear that Bongo Jr. likely didn't win. He retains the support of France, major French investors such as Vincent Bollore --yes, the Bollore who lent Sarkozy his yacht so that the President could go on vacation.
I went looking around for stories in the French speaking media but was unsuccessful (nothing in Le Monde, nothing in Jeune Afrique, same thing from Radio France Internationale). One of the articles I linked to above mentions an interview with Bollore which basically says he supports Bongo and stability in Gabon (and that democracy there provides a basis for foreign investment). One of the articles mentions there was a small protests in Paris to support the people of Gabon. Unlike for both Tunisia and Egypt, senior French officials--that is the French Foreign Minister for Tunisia who used a Ben Ali jet while she was on vacation there during the protests and the Prime Minister, Francois Fillon who used a Mubarak jet in Egypt--have not yet been re-exposed for their scandalous friendship with Gabon's leadership but I think that's a matter of time.
I couldn't find much else but keep a tab on this page, it will be interesting to see whether the people of Gabon are inspired by their Tunisian and Egyptian sisters and brothers.