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Civil society groups in Gabon fear unfairness in August elections

President Ali Bongo Ondimba   -  
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Talks in preparation for Gabon's presidential election in August are set to begin on Monday 13 February with vivid memories of 2016, when the poll was marred by violence and the raiding of the headquarters of the main opposition candidate.

Citizen campaign groups and religious leaders were not invited to the meeting.

Marc Ona is president of Tournons La Page which brings together six civil society organisations. 

"The government did not appreciate the tone of the bishops, he says. "They spoke in the presence of the Vatican representative and the civil society which has always been critical of the management of public affairs and their organisation.

"These two components are an obstruction to the debates that will suffer. The debate that will open between the two parties.

"When you look at the composition of the government and the opposition, these are people who know each other. Maybe they don't want the church and the clergy to be able to intervene to stop them from doing their thing."

Civil society activist were excluded form the discussions but are clear about the points they believe would help to improve electoral governance; elements that they hoped would be included during dialogue.

"We need to review the electoral law. We need an impartial election organising body. You have followed the election of the president of the electoral commission. It was a member of the government who was elected. This does not bode well for the organisation of elections," adds Ona. 

He suggest this position should be held by a neutral person such as a member of the clergy

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