Ali Bongo is missing the Gabonese

But why did Sylvia change her profile picture on social networks on Wednesday? And why, from now on, Gabonese President Ali Bongo's wife shows a picture of her black and white couple? This is the last question that moves social networks, ready to broadcast for ten days all the rumors about the health of the Gabon fort. The most recent date seems to come from the pure register "people": the implicit suspicion of this black and white shown by the first lady of Gabon is a hidden mourning. Which, in the immediate future, seems a little premature.

One thing is certain: Ali Bongo, 59, remains invisible since October 24th. Arriving the day before in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he was one of the few African leaders to participate in the "Davos Desert", the Future Investment Initiative, organized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in turmoil after the earthquake caused by the Khashoggi case. And it is the day after the president of Gabon was suddenly a victim, not a simple one "Malaise" as the president's spokesman in Libreville will later say, but suddenly, as confirmed to release more sources. One of them also recalls that Ali Bongo had already suffered an attack "At the beginning of September, which prevented him from going to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, in Bamako".

Operating table

But this time, the "Malaise" it seems much more serious. And many are Gabonese or foreign observers who confirm, outside, that the president of Gabon, who was operated after his emergency transfer to King Faisal Hospital in Riyadh, could not get out of it. would be "Blind and tetraplegic" how do some people claim? "Maintained in an artificial coma", how others emphasize? Impossible to decide, even if the opacity maintained by Libreville regime supporters reinforces the most alarming voices.

After four long days of silence, the local authorities finally admitted on October 28th "Serious tiredness". Since then, it is radio silence on the side of the Sea Palace, the huge fortress built by Omar Bongo, in power for forty-one years, until his death in 2009. Date when his son Ali succeeded. Already that year, the illness and then the death of Omar Bongo, in Barcelona, ​​had given rise to an extremely closed communication.

But it was before the social networks that increased the voices of silence. But not only is the state of health of the President no longer the subject of any official comment since October 28, but no image filters even, paving the way for a torrent of speculation and false news. At the start of this week, we saw, published on Twitter, fake images of a body that was supposed to be Ali Bongo's lying on an operating table. Images followed in the wake, from a fake interview attributed to the ambassador of Gabon in France, confirming a pseudo-death of Ali Bongo. Two days later, he is a councilor in the city of Lens who adds a layer, also claiming to know from reliable sources that the Gabonese president is dead.

The hysteria is real, but does Sylvia Bongo not keep it with a tweet broadcast on Thursday, accompanied by a photo in which only the hand of Ali Bongo is visible? Beyond this media hype, a race against time may have already engaged in the heart of a regime that has held the country for more than half a century. Ali Bongo not only does not have an obvious successor, but the dubious conditions of his re-election in August 2016, which have plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis, make quite complicated any transition imposed by his relatives. Officially re-elected with just over 5,000 votes in a contested ballot, including observers from the European Union on the spot, Ali Bongo has never been recognized as the "real" president of a part of the population, still traumatized by the 39. Murder assault delivered to the headquarters of his rival Jean Ping on 31 August 2016, the day before the announcement of the results.

Ban ban

And as often happens in Gabon, the balance of power that is emerging now resembles a Shakespearean drama in which family ties intertwine possible alliances and rivalries. In the role of Ali Bongo's challenger in the 2016 election, we find Jean Ping who, in Libreville, still considers himself "The President-elect of the Republic". He is also a man of the menagerie who has broken the rank and "former brother-in-law" of Bongo since he was also the companion of Pascaline, Ali's older sister. What does Jean Ping intend to do now? Mute from the beginning of this crisis, he came out of his silence, last weekend, just to invite the "Gathering" without mentioning the President's name or state of health.

But it is likely that it will not make any move on the side of the Constitutional Council, in principle only authorized to register a vacant post of power, either temporary or permanent. The president of this institution, which had validated the 2016 elections, is in fact a former lover of Omar Bongo, he had two children. Within the opposition, Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo remains regarded as an indefectible ally of the dominant clan.

A clan that also seems divided. On the one hand, Ali's half-brother Frédéric Bongo, a former Saint-Cyr in charge of intelligence services and, on the other hand, the current president's chief of staff, Brice Laccruche Alihanga, that would be supported by Sylvia Bongo. Except that none of them has the legitimacy or popularity to be imposed immediately on the head of the country. According to our information, Frédéric Bongo, who was in Paris at the time of his brother's strike in Riyadh, also tried in vain to be received at the Elysee before leaving for Libreville … The regime's supporters can at least rely on the Senate speaker? According to Article 13 of the Constitution, it is she who must take the transition in case of vacation of power. And Lucie Milebou-Aubusson, a rather muted personality, until now has always been loyal to the ruling dynasty. But it is also the mother-in-law of Franck, the very discreet son of Jean Ping. Will it be reliable until the end, in case the balance of power changes?

sledges

Behind this atmosphere worthy of Borgia, there is also the reality of a small oil emirate ruined by a family that would have in France, a real estate worth € 47 million, while the schools of this country of two million inhabitants, "Often hosting more than 100 students per class due to lack of infrastructure" remembered in August the news site Gabon Media Time. "The country does not even have the means to organize a new presidential election, since the coffers are empty" says a lawyer close to the opposition. The latest legislative and local poll took place in October and led to a clear victory for Ali Bongo's party, while a fraction of the opposition behind Jean Ping called for a boycott.

"But this situation reinforces the current vacuum of power, says Alain Ogouliguende, one of the representatives of the Gabon diaspora in France. Because of these elections, the Assembly was dissolved. And even the Senate has no more legitimacy because it has to be renewed with the newly elected municipal councilors ". Faced with this fraud with unpredictable shifts, it is therefore to the international community that, once again, as after the 2016 presidential elections, those who hope to turn the Bongo page: "In February, we seized the African Commission on human and peoples' rights on the 2016 electoral dispute. But also, in June, the African Union and the UN Security Council." We are waiting for their verdict that, if they will give us reason, will only repeat the elections in polling stations polled ", explains the representative of civil society. In these days, in Libreville, notes a resident, "There is a disturbing calm, everyone is waiting".

Maria Malagardis

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