The much-anticipated national dialogue in Gabon is finally ongoing with participants from some 50 political parties and over 1,000 civil society groups in attendance.
Gabonese President Ali Bongo launched the initiative in late March as part of efforts to resolve a crisis sparked by his re-election in August last year.
In spite of the start of the dialogue, the nation’s sharp divisions remain with questions being raised about the outcome of the process.
If at our level, we are unable to resolve some of the problems, we will resort to mediation. But resorting to mediation does not mean it is up to them to take a decision on the matter. Theirs is to give advice.
The dialogue is structured to have four parts – the opening and closing ceremonies and two phases in between: one for civil society members and one for political parties.
The political parties continued their session this week with discussions of campaign financing and presidential terms.
A member of the opposition Mike Steeve Jocktane told reporters: “We are trying to bring about reforms at the constitutional and institutional levels. We have to agree on who does what and how. Who has more power over a particular domain?
After all, there are still questions over the presidential election, the duration of the mandate, the limitation or otherwise of the presidential mandate. These are all important questions. And on these issues, we will have to reach an agreement.”
The dialogue is moving forward without opposition presidential candidate Jean Ping, who has refused to participate.
Ping who lost the August 2016 poll by less than 6,000 votes still holds himself out as the duly elected president of Gabon in defiance of the Constitutional court which upheld Bongo’s victory.
Violence erupted on August 31, four days after the polls when Bongo was declared winner by some 6,000 votes.
Demonstrators set parliament ablaze and clashed with police leading to some 1,000 people being arrested.
With tensions still high and differences in opinion still rife among the various parties who are discussing some thorny issues concerning the country, co-chair of the dialogue, Pierre Claver Maganga Mouussavou has told reporters the participants have agreed to defer fall on facilitators such as religious leaders and African Union envoys should they hit a deadlock.
“If at our level, we are unable to resolve some of the problems, we will resort to mediation. But resorting to mediation does not mean it is up to them to take a decision on the matter. Theirs is to give advice,” Moussavou said.
The dialogue, originally scheduled to end on May 10, has been extended to May 25 to allow participants iron out differences that may have arisen during the course of the process.