Gabon opposition leader ready to fight

2013-01-28 22:04

Libreville - Gabon's main opposition leader Andre Mba Obame, who has been absent from politics for five months because of poor health, said on Monday that he would "very soon" resume his "political combat".

Mba Obame, who claimed victory in the 2009 presidential election officially won by Ali Bongo, said that he had been "the object of repeated mystical attacks, very strong, very powerful. Perhaps you find that difficult to understand... not necessarily rational and Cartesian".

"I was in a state of coma a number of times with near total paralysis and speech difficulties. It was like a stroke, but there were no traces of a stroke in the brain," he told AFP, breaking a long silence.

The opposition leader, who turned to traditional medicine for healing, said this had entailed "complete isolation, silence, reflection". During his illness, he was often rumoured to have died.

"This great trial has made me stronger... I am going to come out of isolation and take up a normal life and in my normal life there is political combat."

Mba Obame, 55, served as a government minister under Bongo's father, Omar Bongo, who died in 2009. He returned to the equatorial African country last August after 14 months abroad for prior health reasons. He speaks with difficulty, uses a crutch and remains partly paralysed on his left side.

As executive secretary of the National Union (UN) party - which was dissolved by Bongo's government after Mba Obame proclaimed himself president in 2011 - he calls for a "sovereign national conference" bringing together the regime, the opposition and civil society, to draw up a new constitution and organise elections.

The last such conference in 1990 led to the introduction of multi party politics, but Bongo has dismissed Mba Obame's proposal as a "veritable constitutional coup d'etat".

Still, Mba Obame said, "the national conference is inevitable. It will happen. There will perhaps be no sovereign national conference convened by the authorities, but we don't need the regime to convene it."

"We've seen countries where national conferences have not been convened by the authorities, such as Niger, Senegal."

"We are going to organise [the gathering] in the next few weeks. With or without the authorities," he added.

Mba Obame argued that though dissolved, the UN party is "even stronger" now.

Though the party is banned from taking part in local elections later this year, he said that "in politics, six months is a long time, plenty of things can and will happen... The UN will lead this country very soon, for a long time and in a democratic fashion".

  • henry.vanderburpenfart - 2013-01-28 22:38

    Such a pity because Gabon is one of the most charming West African countries that I have been to.

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