Gabon's Dialogue Proposes National Rebirth, Presidential Term Limits

Yaounde, Cameroon — Gabon's month-long national dialogue intended to lay the groundwork for restoring civilian rule in the Central African nation concludes at the end of April, with delegates proposing a range of options for new governance.

The more than 600 delegates attending the talks in the capital, Libreville, offered scores of recommendations for rebuilding the political, economic, and social organization of the central African nation after more than 60 years of rule by former President Omar Bongo and his family, followed by months of military rule.

Jean Bernard Asseko Mve, a cleric of the Roman Catholic Church and the dialogue's spokesperson, spoke on Gabon's state TV on Wednesday. He said the participants were preoccupied with why Gabon has remained poor and underdeveloped despite the central African state's abundance of natural and mineral wealth, fertile soils, forests and petroleum resources.

Mve added that the first success of the dialogue is that Gabon's citizens appear to have put their differences behind them and are focused on the well-being of their country and its close to 2.5 million inhabitants.

Emmanuel Mve Mba is chairperson of Gabon's Inclusive National Dialogue Sub Commission on Employment, which discussed what it calls galloping youth unemployment, one factor government officials believe to be linked to mounting insecurity and highway robbery in the central African state.

Mba said the subcommission recommends that the more than 180,000 youths who applied for jobs since the military seized power on Aug. 30, 2023, be recruited into public offices strictly on merit and not as a political favors, which he said has been the case since Gabon's independence about 60 years ago.

Mba said Gabon needs 7,000 teachers, 6,000 health workers, and 20,000 police and soldiers to maintain peace in the central African nation.

Dialogue officials say strong recommendations have been made for Gabon to be a true democratic state, where civilians are not persecuted for holding contrary opinions to those of the ruling governments. They say an independent elections management body should be created to guarantee free, fair and transparent polls.

Other recommendations include establishing presidential limits in office to two five-year terms and reducing the influence of the central government in Libreville through decentralization -- particularly by giving more power to local officials in Gabon's nine administrative units, known as provinces, with the possibility of electing governors.

Dialogue officials say the recommendations and resolutions will be examined during a plenary on April 30 and handed to transitional President General Brice Oligui Nguema. Nguema, at the beginning of the dialogue, promised to respect all resolutions taken at the Inclusive National Dialogue.

The participants say they asked Nguema to respect the transitional charter he set for himself and hand power to democratic rule by August 2025, when local council and legislative elections are expected to take place.

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