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.
Here is an article from USA Today, today.
That is all from Africa for now, I hope you are all doing well. Prayers for Gabon and its people and those living here are needed.
Links for you entertainment:
Opposition leader dies in 2015