CIVICUS

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Gabon

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Last updated on 06.04.2018 at 13:12

Gabon-Overview

Although civic space in Gabon appears constitutionally unimpeded, civil society operates under serious restrictions, which impede their ability to speak out on any issue of concern to them.

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Gabonese unions representing several sectors organise nationwide strikes

Gabonese unions representing several sectors organise nationwide strikes

Over the past few months, Gabon has been rocked by several strikes. On 5th February 2018, a strike organised by the Syndicat libre des transporteurs terrestres du Gabon (Free Union of Land Carriers of Gabon), the main union for taxi drivers in the capital, Libreville, and neighbouring Owendo and Akanda, paralysed the city.

Peaceful Assembly

Over the past few months, Gabon has been rocked by several strikes. On 5th February 2018, a strike organised by the Syndicat libre des transporteurs terrestres du Gabon (Free Union of Land Carriers of Gabon), the main union for taxi drivers in the capital, Libreville, and neighbouring Owendo and Akanda, paralysed the city. The strike erupted over the continuously increasing prices of gas as well as cases of police racketeering. 

In another incident, magistrates went on a general unlimited strike on 13th December 2017 after Minister of Justice Francis Nkéa Ndizigue had publicly accused judges of corruption. The comments were made after the Syndicat national des magistrats du Gabon (Union of Magistrates of Gabon) accused the Justice Minister of interference from the executive branch in the judiciary when the Minister allegedly called on a judge regarding a ruling that was made. The magistrates demanded the Minister's resignation. The strike ended on 26th February 2018 after a reshuffling in the government that caused Nkéa Ndizigue's departure from his post as Minister of Justice. 

On 5th March 2018, the union Syndicat national des enseignants chercheurs du Gabon (National Union of Teachers and Researchers of Gabon) and the Force de réflexion et d’actions pour l’Enseignement supérieur (Force of Reflection and Actions for Higher Education) announced a strike at the University of Omar Bongo in Libreville to demand the rector leave the university. The unions claimed the rector has engaged in smear campaigns against union representatives when confronted with questions around financial issues. The unions suspended the strike on 7th March. 

On 9th March, the trade union confederation Dynamique Unitaire (DA) organised a general unlimited strike for public servants to protest the austerity measures taken by the Council of Ministers as of 23rd February 2018 which affects public servants. In response to a lack of response from authorities regarding a notice of intent to strike submitted on 1st of March, DA announced a general nationwide strike in all sectors from 12th March to demand that labour union rights be respected. The strike organisers also petitioned for a renegotiation of pension plans and the administrative rehabilitation of trade union Convention nationale des syndicats du système éducatif (National Convention of Trade Unions in the Education System). As reported previously on the Monitor, the government suspended the Convention on 17th March 2017, citing "disturbance of public order" as the reason behind the suspension. 

Association

The Gabonese constitution recognises people’s right to freely associate with one another and form organisations.

The Gabonese constitution recognises people’s right to freely associate with one another and form organisations. At the regulatory level, civil society organisations are governed by a law from 1962, which CSOs consider obsolete. Although the registration process is simple, authorities often fail to provide organisations with the necessary receipt of their registration; the rules on funding are not conducive to the development of the sector; and the law has not kept up with the evolution of the sector and does not accommodate new forms of organisation such as platforms, networks and movements. In addition to the difficulties faced by organisations, individual human rights defenders also sometimes face harassment and intimidation. At times, CSOs are labelled as opponents of the government, especially those which highlight sensitive or critical human rights issues.

Peaceful Assembly

Despite constitutional protections, people in Gabon face many obstacles when trying to exercise their right to protest peacefully in public.

Despite constitutional protections, people in Gabon face many obstacles when trying to exercise their right to protest peacefully in public. All public protests must first be approved by the government, in contravention of international best practice on the freedom of peaceful assembly. When demonstrations do take place, security forces regularly use violence to disperse protestors. This is what happened on 20th December 2014, when a demonstration banned by the authorities resulted in one death and more than a hundred arrests. More recently, police used excessive force and killed at least two people during protests after the 2016 presidential elections.

Expression

Though Gabon is home to several privately-owned newspapers, TV and radio stations, online news websites and blogs, public media dominates the press landscape and private media faces bureaucratic harassment from authorities.

Though Gabon is home to several privately-owned newspapers, TV and radio stations, online news websites and blogs, public media dominates the press landscape and private media faces bureaucratic harassment from authorities. Some journalists are regularly threatened and sued for defamation, with press offenses continuing to be criminalised in Gabon. The media self-censors on some sensitive topics including rituals crimes and corruption by the authorities. Access to government information is very limited and there is freedom of information law in Gabon. Authorities exercise strict control over the internet and social media. The internet in Gabon was shut down in the wake of the 2016 elections after protestors started contesting the elections results.