18 December 2020: the Gabonese government commits itself through a press release at the end of its intensified political dialogue with the European Union to compensate the victims of 2016 "if they were proven". While these victims have not even been identified yet, and the reparation process has not yet been announced, new victims are already falling.
They are now the victims of the scabrous and heartless management of the fight against Covid-19. What has happened to the five hundred billion CFA francs received from international partners? Why are the tests still paying? Where are the free masks? Why haven't hospitals been equipped with resuscitation equipment?
Under the pretext of protecting the populations: they are barricaded, muzzled, forbidden to gather, forbidden to worship even in the open air, forbidden to trade and therefore forbidden to survive. Summoned to take all the children out of their schools at 3pm and forbidden to circulate after 6pm, the citizens suffocate while the dead or dying companies sack them. The already difficult daily life of the Gabonese becomes insurmountable. In the absence of ways to relieve congestion, going home becomes a real road to ordeal, with the fear of the exactions of the defence and security forces in their stomachs, which have become the daily life of the citizens. Scenes of humiliation, torture and racketeering are trivialised, generalised and legitimised in the name of the fight against COVID-19.
In Gabon, as elsewhere in Africa, small businesses and the informal sector remain the main providers of jobs and income. How is it possible to understand why the trade in second-hand clothing should be banned? How to interpret the requirement to display the Covid test in restaurants? A test valid for a maximum of one week and costing between 5,000 and 30,000 FCFA! How to cope when working hours are reduced by the need to comply with curfew hours? What do the Central Mayor, the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Health do in markets and places of worship? Is this where national security is now threatened? Is the restriction of civic space the answer to the health crisis and the insalubrity that the population is experiencing?
Tired of being impoverished and humiliated in this way, the people are grumbling. Since Wednesday 17 February, every evening at 8 pm, the pots and pans have been ringing in the neighbourhoods of Libreville. A peaceful expression of a population that no longer knows how to make its suffering and despair heard.
Evening of Thursday 18 February: the pots and pans are exported in the streets of Libreville. The response is immediate, the army is released. There is talk of two human casualties and many wounded. Once again, we can expect the law of omerta.
Are such excessive measures really justified for 80 deaths in one year and in a country where the proportion of elderly people is insignificant compared to that of France, from which the Gabonese executive blissfully draws inspiration to manage this health crisis?
What will we remember from this dark page of our history: the extension of the unworthy debt to finance a dictatorship fantasy that is certainly becoming clearer every day?
Who will be the next "proven" or "unproven" victim?
For the international coalition Tournons La Page
Marc ONA ESSANGUI
Libreville, February 19, 2021