Gabon. Human rights activists against corruption are menaced in Gabon. Open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy

Published on 1 August 2008 - Survie

Mr. President,

It is well known that you are on excellent terms with Omar Bongo, president of Gabon so you must also be aware of the harassment and intimidation that threaten Gabonese civic leaders who dare to oppose the corrupt practices encountered in the extractive industries. You know of course that such massive misappropriations of state revenues contribute towards impoverishing the citizens of Gabon and prevent the emergence of normal democratic institutions.

Recently five civic leaders representing Gabonese NGOs [1] have been arrested without warrant and held in custody for interrogation. Why? Because they dared to denounce a financial scandal involving the public prosecutor of the claims court in Libreville and also called for a public inquiry into this affaire as well as the dismissal of the incriminated government officials. These civic leaders were arrested while participating in a meeting of the Gabonese Front of Civil Society Organizations against Poverty (Front des Organisations de la Société Civile Contre la Pauvreté au Gabon, FOSCPG). Now they are being accused of offending state representatives.

Mr. Marc Ona is one of the principal accused. He also happens to be the main coordinator of the coalition Publish What You Pay in Gabon and an active member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative committee. It is also well known that last June, Mr. Ona was prevented from going to the United States to take part in an international meeting on transparency in the extractive industries. Evidently the Gabonese authorities are uninterested in seeing effective transparency measures enacted and do not hesitate to threaten those national leaders who dare to engage the rude battle to improve the livelihoods of their fellow citizens.

All observers of the political and economic scene in Gabon have been alerting the public to the menace incurred by the civic activists of Gabonese society.

Mr. President, you yourself have often underscored the defence of democracy and human rights in Africa so we can expect you to show your commitment by publicly defending these courageous civic leaders. We are counting on your prestige to weigh upon the government of Mr. Omar Bongo in their favour.

Yours sincerely

Copy: Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

(Translated for Survie-France by SS)

Note : For the original version of this press release as well as documentary references please consult the French version of our website Communiqués de presse et lettres ouvertes.

Further Documentation on PWYP, the EITI and the problem of disappearing oil revenues in Gabon :

Article put online 29 Oct 08 to be released in November by Global Witness /from the Bank Information Center : « IMF and World Bank Need to Bolster Transparency Measures in the Extractive Industries. » can be doan loaded from of international monetary fund and world
or go to

Global Witness website : article from the US Senate Judiciary Committee/Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Law/Written Testimony : » The US role in addressing complicity of companies in human rights abuses in conflict areas ; »

Global Witness website : September 2008 article by Simon Taylor, director and co-founder of Global Witness : Testimony for Hearing : »Resource Curse or Blessing : Africa’s Extractive Industries in a Time of Record Oil and Mineral Prices. » Senate Foreign Relations Committee/Subcommittee on Africa. This article includes 19 references to officially sollicited expertise or fact finding centers like the OPEC Revenues Fact Sheets of 2008.

[1nongovernmental organisation

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