afrol News, 28 January - An attempt by Gabon's opposition leader André Mba Obame to stage a revolution inspired by Tunisia and the chaos in Côte d'Ivoire has failed to gather enough popular and international support.
The National Union party was only founded in Libreville in March last year and legalised in April, uniting many of Gabon's main opposition parties. Party president Zacharie Myboto already before the Union's legalisation had to struggle with its upcoming leader André Mba Obame.
Mr Obame was known as a loose shot as he warned about a possible coup in Gabon, causing a police investigation and a delay in the new party's legalisation.
On Tuesday, Mr Obame made another unexpected move as he declared himself "President of Gabon," claiming he had won the August 2009 presidential election in the country. Mr Obame in 2009 had stood as an independent candidate, losing out to interim President Ali Bongo in a rather unfair election.
The opposition leader made the statement on air on the television broadcaster TV+, owned by himself. He took the oath as Gabon's President and named a parallel cabinet of 19 ministers, 17 months after the 2009 elections.
Angered by the surprise statement and unconstitutional act, President Bongo disbanded the National Union party and sent out security forces to arrest Mr Obame.
But the opposition leader managed to flee and took refuge in the Libreville offices of the UN. From here, he has sought the UN and the international community to accept him as the lawful President of Gabon - leaning onto the chaotic situation in Côte d'Ivoire, where the UN acknowledges Alassane Ouattara as the rightful leader despite President Laurent Gbagbo's reluctance to step down.
Also from his UN refuge, Mr Obame managed to mobilise hundreds of his supporters in protest marches, hoping to copy the popular revolution in Tunisia. Protesters yesterday gathered in front of the UN offices, urging for the international recognition of Mr Obame as Gabon's leader.
While the Bongo regime is both undemocratic and authoritarian, Gabon's similarities with Tunisia and Côte d'Ivoire stopped there. For Gabonese police troops, it was an easy match to disperse the anti-government protesters with tear gas yesterday. Today, there have been no signs of new protest marches.
Also internationally, the response to Mr Obame's self-declared presidency has been a cold shoulder. No one has recognised his presidency.
At the African Union (AU), the move rather caused irritation. AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping - himself a Gabonese citizen, said he had learned about the announcement "with surprise and concern." He reminded the Gabonese opposition that the 2009 election was held "in the presence of international observers."
The AU urged the Gabonese opposition to rather "take pride in their contribution to the stability and respect Gabon enjoys," further urging it to "exercise restraint." Government however was asked to enter dialogue with the opposition "to strengthen its democratic process and attain socio-economic development."
Mr Obame obtained 25 percent of the votes in the 2009 elections, according to official results, and it is widely understood that his support is not significantly larger among the Gabonese population. It may rather have fallen after the surprise announcement of his presidency.
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