In the latest incident in what is emerging as a pattern of harassment and intimidation of anti-corruption campaigners in Gabon, national police attempted to arrest 5 people on Tuesday at a meeting of the Gabonese Civil Society Forum Against Poverty (FOSCPG) in Libreville. The individuals that are being targeted include Marc Ona, national coordinator of PWYP Gabon and a member of the multi-stakeholder committee implementing Gabon’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international initiative promoting increased transparency of revenues from oil, gas and mining.
“Agents from the Gendarmerie Nationale tried to detain us without any formal charges or official warrant. After facing our resistance and following vehement protest from other civil society groups, the police decided to let us go,” said Ona.
PWYP Gabon believes the police action is politically motivated and follows the release of a civil society communiqué issued the previous day denouncing the involvement of Gabon’s Chief Prosecutor Bosco Alaba Fall in an alleged corruption scandal. All 5 individuals pursued by the police signed the communiqué which calls for the public official’s suspension and a full investigation into suspected money laundering through his account at BGFI bank in Gabon.
Ona and 2 others were summoned by the police yesterday and interrogated for hours and accused of insulting a public official, which is punishable under Gabonese law. No formal charges have yet been brought against any of the individuals and the remaining 2 individuals will be interrogated today.
This incident is the latest in a series of recent attempts by the government of Gabon to restrict the work of transparency activists. In January, PWYP Gabon was temporarily suspended by the government and in June, a travel ban was imposed on Ona just as he was about to fly from Libreville to New York to attend an international meeting on revenue transparency.
“We are very worried about the safety and well-being of Marc Ona and his colleagues in Gabon. The international community must send a strong message to the government of Gabon that this campaign of intimidation and harassment against civil society activists is simply unacceptable,” said Radhika Sarin, PWYP International Coordinator.
PWYP extends its full support to PWYP Gabon and civil society organisations in their efforts to promote revenue transparency and denounce corruption across Gabon, while maintaining an open and constructive dialogue with government authorities.
PWYP calls upon the government of Gabon to respect the right of civil society to operate freely and without harassment or interference in their work. PWYP also calls upon the international EITI community, including donors, financial institutions and oil companies operating in Gabon, to remind Gabon of its commitment to uphold the EITI principles on the free engagement of independent civil society.
Publish What You Pay is an international coalition of civil society working in over 50 countries, calling for the mandatory disclosure of company payments and government revenues from the oil, gas, and mining sector. The coalition also calls for the disclosure of licensing arrangements and extractive industry contracts.