The announcement from the court took place 31 hours ago, confirming Ali Bongo as President of Gabon. In an interesting twist, the court accused both candidates of cheating and Bongo’s lead for victory increased in the final confirmation. President Bongo has told Ping he would be arrested and his government has already arrested a high-ranking ex-official that backed Ping. As a westerner, arresting an opponent and those who backed the opposition is unfamiliar territory. I am pleased we do not attempt this practice. Our politics are far from honorable but at least we have not fallen so far as to arrest those of differing opinions or politics.
So, with that I add nothing has changed. Bongo remains in power, no unrest has developed with this verdict, and we remain censored with our internet curfew and social media suppression. I remain cautiously pleased that no one else has been harmed in this emotional election. I say cautiously because it is has only been 31 hours since the announcement. Cautiously optimistic is the phrase of the week for all of us with the newness of the this next era, or continuation of it all actuality.
Bongo family dynasty will continue on into a 5th decade of power. I am curious to see how Bongo addresses, and acts upon, his next Presidency, it being contested 2 for 2 now. In addition, what will the people do over these next seven years? They have twice protested a Bongo victory, will they accept it or decide that as a Republic their voice stands for more?
The country, leadership, and the people need continued prayer and wisdom for direction, not from man but from God. Continuing to look at Bongo or Ping for salvation of Gabon and the betterment of their lives will only bring disappointment.
25 days can be really short or drag on for eternity, depending on circumstances.
25 days in Gabon, post-election, is dragging on due to the continued shut down of internet. The first five days we had a complete shut down of internet services and phones. We may have to learn to send carrier pigeons again. Does anyone know how long it takes to train a carrier pigeon?
Since the 5th of September we were put on a curfew from 6 to 6. Don’t be fooled as though this is some generous gesture, it is nothing more than opening the internet for business hours therefore avoiding further international heat. Like clockwork, come 6 am or 6 pm internet goes on and off respectively. Thank you United Nations for interfering, we appreciate having something. No curfew would be better.
Our access to the internet has its boundaries. There is no Social Media allowed.
No Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, You Tube, or the like. You cannot get news video clips, check out new dinner recipes, or Skype family. You cannot for that matter text or use your Vonage phone system. Yup, no phone calls that require a Wi-Fi service.
For 2 weeks, email is the only mode of communication and though I am grateful to have at least that, it is a suppression of speech for sure in modern times.
Snail mail was held up and now only slowly coming in. I am still waiting for items orders one and a half months ago from Amazon Prime. For the most part, many items are beginning to arrive but we are about to undergo another round of riots sooo… missing snail mail items will likely be an ongoing problem.
This week the Constitutional Court is ruling on the election results. There is much gossip as to how people think it will go but either way, we all suspect another round of riots and shut down will occur.
Once again, prayers for the country and people of, and in, Gabon are needed. No one wants to see people running amuck burning building and trucks down, guns and machetes, or men being grabbed out of their homes and taken.
If there were ever an example needed that words have different meanings to different people, this is it. At least I would hope words like “republic” and “democracy” differ to an American. In reality this is no more than an example of the slow progression of western influence while expecting immediate change.
Gabon’s two elections, now and 2009, demonstrate the republic change to come in this young country. It takes time and it take a change in the younger generations to decide something different for themselves as they mature and take power in their later years. Our roots are very different and we cannot expect the same results. Our founding people fled and built a new nation from (mostly) common ground. Taking a western message to a country is not the same, it requires convincing people they want change. There is not the same passion or mission America began with.
While they sort out for themselves what they want, power or democracy, I sit by without internet and hope this reaches you all. I turn in school work during what I have dubbed “Bongo Business Hours” and we read a lot at night or just turn in earlier than normal. If nothing else, maybe I can find my fountain of youth with the extra sleep.
Four days have passed since my last post. In that time, the Gabonese have voted and results have finally been reported.
The re-elected President, Ali Bongo, will continue the family name in office and begin his second 7 year term.
For the second time, his victory has been met with accusations of cheating and riots. Yes, that means we are there now. So far, to my knowledge, it hasn’t gone beyond tear gas and tire burning but it is early yet.
The people of Gabon are in need of prayers as they deal with the election, the announcement, and the future. We hope they can find constructive, healthy ways to handle it all.
There is so much to say but I cannot find my words. It has been a long week already and who knows how long we’ll be enduring riots and protests. We have been prepping for this and have run through some food ourselves, but we are in no means of starving. However it makes me wonder about the locals and their food supplies, the families that are separated because of the safety concerns, and the children who must be scared.
I will blog again in a few days and let you know if a resolution is on the way.
Today is Election Day in Gabon. What an opportunity to witness a foreign country elect their next president.
A quick history lesson about young Gabon. They declared independence from France on August 17, 1960. Gabon’s leadership in the first years are a little muddied but worth a quick read, however, essentially there has been two Presidents, the current President and his father.
Yes, for 48 years a single family has ruled Gabon. Can you see how this may be a sticky point? Americans get upset if there is 12 or 16 years total with a singular family name.
I only arrived back home to Gabon two weeks ago and it has been an interesting reentry. The days, and community, were normal prior to my departure in early July; however, upon my return in early August, politics were enjoying full propaganda swing.
These past few days intensified as the air was charged with emotion and people were clearing out-of-town and even country.
Surprisingly, local businesses were still open hours prior to voting. Grocery stores we packed with lines of 30 minutes or longer as people grabbed for the essential items: milk, butter, bread, eggs, and chicken. In 2009, the last election as they hold elections every 7 years now, stores were empty. All in all, the stores and markets addressed the issues and were absolutely better prepared for customers this election year. People may have been scooping items off the shelf hours before the election but at least they were available this time.
Driving around, we had happened upon political rallies, city and country, this week but by and large pedestrian and car traffic was coming to a crawl.
After schools close in June the international communities (Libreville, Gabon is VERY international) depart for home or other foreign vacations. This large segment of Libreville population is still out-of-town. Their departure is felt every summer however the locals themselves are staying closer to home, leaving this once crowded, heavily trafficked area nearly ghost like in comparison to any other time of the year.
We have been preparing for a worst-case scenario and expecting the best. What does this mean?
I have topped off our gas tanks in the vehicle and we have propane for the grill. Flashlights, batteries, and candles have all been located and gathered. Water jugs and bottles are filled, additional water bottles have been frozen, and extra drink options purchased. Food supplies are topped off and extra money has been pulled out and put away.
We have put together and finalized our “Go Bags” filled with all important documents, hygiene, and clothing items to be able to dash out in a moments notice if told to evacuate.
Say what you will about American politics, you aren’t doing this come November.
Yesterday an angry protesting mob went by my house marching toward the President. I watched it from my office window upstairs. I am not worried about them, at least yet, because let me tell you the President has more army and security available than you could imagine. They never get far but they actually made it beyond my home which is the farthest I, myself, have ever seen them get.
They are always met with Army tanks, trucks, and soldiers with artillery and tear gas to deploy. So, kudos to gaining a few more feet than usually but it wasn’t long until I watched these protestors go back by my home, escorted, sandwiched between all of the above mentioned personnel. I wish I had my phone to grab a photo.
This was a peaceful, albeit vocal, group of protestors but no one is quite sure what will spring up after the election. Who knows, there may be another photo opportunity but I won’t be sad if there isn’t.
Overall, Gabonese people are not terribly violent. Usually, the groups are easily dealt with using only tear gas. However torching embassies, cars, and deaths do happen. I will attach some articles at the end.
As one may presume, the Gabonese election process in not electronic. The live election news coverage with redundant updates we have come to enjoy (or loathe) as American will not happen here.
We will wait.
They must be hand counted. They must be brought in from around the country. The word on the street is the earliest announcement could be Monday or it could take as long as a week or two.
Of course the skeptic in me wonders if that is just to give them time to stuff or remove ballots from the boxes. Too much American News Network or just realistic? Maybe both…
They do have a process to follow that seems to have a lot of checks and balances in the chart so I suppose I will give the benefit of the doubt versus being a Doubting Thomas about it.
There are foreigners, including someone who lives in this house, deployed around the country to observe and report the election process. I am interested in hearing what they observed! I wish I could have gone, of course. What an exciting opportunity for those selected to go.
Here is a shot of a polling station.
My home is calm, as to be expected. I have explained to the children what is going on and why we were packing “Go Bags.” They are okay with it because I am okay with it. Our children really do feed off our emotions.
So, other than preparations, things are normal. We are playing games, coloring, doing school work, watching movies, and making smoothies. Just another day in a Bruce house but Mom knows it isn’t underneath it all.
I will update later with the outcome of the election and reactions from the community.
We have been here for 5 months and been to church 3 times.
A family who has practically lived at church and joked about forwarding mail, there must be a reason why this Bruce clan has only stepped foot in a church 3 times.
The first church adventure was in early December, just mere weeks after our arrival. The church meets in a building under construction. The space on the bottom floor is rented for church use while the owners finish construction elsewhere. It definitely resembles a construction site so when we pulled up, I had to look twice to make sure we were at the right place.
Inside was pleasant and well attended. The double sliding side doors were kept open for air flow along with the plethora of fans littering the ceiling and floor space to keep people cool.
The music was energetic and the signing harmonious. Recognizing a few songs, I was able to hum or sing along, depending on whether I recalled the words or not!
The translator (whom we know) was amazing! What a relief to be able to understand the sermon.
Side note: This was not because we were there. There were other African’s present from English speaking countries. We were the only non Africans present (as I recall).
He kept up with the pastor’s sermon in words and energy; I was fascinated watching the exchange. I found myself agreeing with the pastor- sometimes. I thoughts to myself, “great point,” “I needed to hear that today,” and just a general “yes, preach it” sort of head bob.
Then again, there were times I thought, “Whaaaaat?”
Service was lovely and the people were friendly, to this point. As the service came to a close the pastor asked people to come forward if they were ready to receive Jesus and two ladies, sitting two rows ahead of us, went forward.
Great! I wondered if this happened every week. I feel this is an area we could improve in as a Church.
Then it all went wrong, very wrong.
After some French exchange, the two ladies were suddenly drug to the back of the church, right past us.
A space where a person steps into, with a restroom door to their left and right, is located there. The congregation began getting up, signaling to us service was over. I grabbed the girls and stepped quickly outside. Thanks to the open slider doors, which I say with partial sarcasm and curiosity, we were all able to see what was unfolding- including my girls. This will make for interesting discussions later, I thought to myself, and I was right.
Several men blocked the opening that led to the restroom area, corralling these two women in this small space with no where to run. I know because they tried to escape only to be grabbed and dragged back in. It was a commotion for sure.
I seemed to be the only person fazed by the activity in the back. This, I found, disturbing also.
My husband was talking with people we knew and I was trying to focus on the conversations but was mentally raptured with the ladies’ captive behind me. Finally, the translator we were speaking with said he wanted to introduce us to the pastor.
Personally, I just wanted to leave.
He stepped just inside the building and hopped right back out saying matter-of-fact like, “The pastor is still exorcising demons right now” as if he had said something normal like, “It’s sunny outside.”
I was done. My mind raced in a million different directions why we needed to get away.
So this leads to our discussion:
What would you have done and why? In “Local Church Visits: Part 2” I will address what I have to say and my recommendations to you.
I would love to hear what you think because it is a worthwhile discussion to have with the amount of denominations and religions existing today. How does one determine whether any church or behavior is Christian?
This is a question we should all ask ourselves to be prepared to know how to respond when these moments or conversational exchanges occur.
1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,