ALI BONGO COMES OUT OF SWINGING!
By Idriss Fall, US Africa News. Updated 2016-04-26
A flood of resignations in the PDG (Gabonese Democratic Party). Family feuds. Challenges over his Gabonese nationality. The Presidential election. The African Cup of Nations... The president of the Gabonese Republic lets loose. Read his interview, broadcast by the voice of America on April 1, 2016. The interview took place in Washington on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit.
USAFRICANEWS: Why is Gabon participating in this nuclear security summit in Washington?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Gabon was a producer of uranium. We are currently in a non- production phase, but we have still a few uranium sites. That said, everyone is concerned with nuclear safety because it is also about preventing nuclear weapons from getting into the wrong hands. With regard to Africa, fundamentalist movements are looking for opportunities to get their hands on nuclear weapons. And we have upcoming projects which also involve working again with uranium. So there is this safety aspect, and there is also the perspective of working together to ensure that the world is much safer, and also to examine at all the energy possibilities that may be available in different countries. Peaceful nuclear technology may also be a solution to bridge the energy deficit problem that we have.
USAFRICANEWS: Does Gabon have the means to monitor who has recently bought its uranium?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: of course! Today, more than before; we do this in partnership, we respond to all conditions, and we respect what the IAEA says. It is especially necessary to ensure that the ore doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, but we clearly have the means to find that out.
USAFRICANEWS: The political news in Gabon is about the resignation of the president of the National Assembly. Guy Nzouba Ndama had been at the helm since 1997.
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: I was surprised, because this is not at all what he told me in the last conversation I had with him. He just wrote me a letter; I haven’t read it yet. I can't speculate. I'll be much clearer when I get back to Libreville and read his letter.
USAFRICANEWS: But the Lettre du Continent [French bi-monthly publication] indicated that he would announce his candidacy for the presidential election on April 5th?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: That was what was reported several weeks ago (...), that he was going to make an announcement in March, and then that it had been pushed back to April. So, we shouldn’t speculate; we should anticipate. He wrote me a letter. I will read this letter. Then I'll see. For now, there is no danger in delay.
USAFRICANEWS: As soon as you announced your candidacy, there were PDG leaders who said that this was not proper procedure, and these leaders were excluded.
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: No, not at all. The procedure was in accordance with article 29 of our statute, which clearly states: "If the president of the party is at the same time president of the Republic, he is the natural choice of the PDG." This is what happens everywhere in the world. A president always has an advantage. In 2009, I wasn't president and I went through the formula of the primaries. So I’m not afraid of the primaries. We had ten candidates in the primaries; I've been there.
USAFRICANEWS: The president of the National Assembly is running, as well as three party heads. Do you have the impression that many leaders will drop out?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: It wouldn’t be the first time. In 1993 the president of the National Assembly, Jules Bourdes-Ogouliguendé, left the race. So this is not the first time.
USAFRICANEWS: Are you confident that you are going to win this election?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: One doesn’t embark on an adventure like this if there is no real chance of success. I know what we have to do. I have a program. I have a certain amount of experience and given my experience, given my program, I think I can generate the support of my countrymen.
USAFRICANEWS: Why has there never been dialog with the Gabonese opposition?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: There has always been dialogue with the Gabonese opposition. Now, it depends on what you put as a definition of the term 'dialogue'; because, for some, dialogue that is 'you listen to what I tell you and you do what I tell you.’ For those people, this is dialogue. But that is not dialogue. Dialogue still requires accepting that one can have a different opinion. Dialogue has never been about having the same opinion. People discuss; I’ve done it. I’ve consulted the opposition repeatedly. And I find now, that we are in a democracy; and it should absolutely not mean that because one is an African one should do things differently. We went before the people with a program. The people chose a program. Why would you want the person who is elected to put aside his program to choose the other program which was rejected? Why would you want me to do that?
USAFRICANEWS: To appease the spirits...
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Appease what? The people have had time to choose. What is an election? Elections allow us to put our programs before the people and to present them quietly, calmly. The electorate is the sovereign who chooses. Now when the people chose, should that be put aside, in favor of what had been rejected by the people? That’s a problem. Why isn’t this required elsewhere? Why it is only required in Africa?
USAFRICANEWS: I don’t know, but when there are elections, there is also violence in Port-Gentil.
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Some violence. Deaths were alleged, but were never found. It is always the same thing. But, when there is violence elsewhere, even then it is not the same problem. Why is violence in Africa regarded differently than elsewhere? It's never events anywhere else, but in Africa? It's never about violence in the streets elsewhere besides Africa? Why must it always be Africa where there are two, three movements, and immediately they have to say ‘Ah, you need to do this, do that.’ We do not want a democracy that is only for Africa. The democratic system that exists in the world has to be the same for us also. I don’t see why there should be specifications... because we are Africans, they have to be a certain way. And if we don’t do it that way? We all wanted to go to a democratic system based on a plurality of opinions and let the sovereign people decide. Well, we are asking for neither more nor less than what is done elsewhere.
USAFRICANEWS: You talked about democratic system; many people say that you have inherited power from your father?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Once again, I remind you that in my party—which was my father's party, in which he was president— I still was in the primaries. And there were ten candidates. So, I was not the automatic choice. And I remember that my father said I could inherit his home, but not his chair. So, I had to first go make my name. And I was working with a handicap, precisely because my father was president; it was not necessarily an asset. It was rather a handicap. So, in situations like that, I needed to do twice as much to prove myself. And that is what I did. And it is the Gabonese people who decided. So, again, the idea of inheritance-- okay, it’s fair game for all my opponents to say this, because they didn’t win.
USAFRICANEWS: Speaking of inheritance, Pierre Péan has written about it, your half-sister in France has said it, the opposition has seized on this nugget of news, all say that you're an adopted child. Can you enlighten us?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Again, I would say simply that when people accuse me they should bring proof of what they allege. It seems that Pierre Péan even went to Nigeria, supposedly to find my parents. Fat chance! They have never provided any evidence of what they argued. The appropriate courts, such as the Libreville Court, and the Court of Nantes have closed this case. Now, if they want to attack the French state they are free to do so; if they want to attack the Gabonese state, they are free to do so. All this shows us—what? All this shows is the absence of a program to propose to the Gabonese. A serious absence. Well then, we will try instead to entertain the Gabonese with a case that is put together from nothing and which is ridiculous. Between you and me, my father had many children, and do you believe that the members of my family would have gone along with everything they have put up with? The criticisms, the press campaigns; and all this for a foreigner, while my father had many other children? Why would all the other children not have spoken up? Why would my parents... and I still have a brother of my father who is alive? And you think that he would no longer defend members of his family? If I was a foreigner…but hold on, it's just ridiculous. As for my half-sister, well...
USAFRICANEWS: You have unveiled the mascot for the African Nations Cup. Is Gabon ready?
ALI BONGO ONDIMBA: Gabon will be ready to host the Cup. And we hope to be able to do justice to this competition as hosts, i.e. in the same way we did in 2012. For us, we need to do better than in 2012, in terms of organization. And sports-wise, we hope that our national team will go as far as possible.