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Gabon initiates national dialogue aimed at transitioning the country back to civilian governance.”

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YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — 

Gabon’s National Dialogue, called to pave the way for a return to constitutional order and an end to the 55-year Bongo dynasty, began Tuesday in the central African state.

Transitional President General Brice Oligui Nguema opened the dialogue, telling a crowd of several thousand civilians and soldiers that Gabon’s citizens are looking forward to what is billed as the country’s Inclusive Major National Dialogue.

During the ceremony at the Libreville Sports Complex, broadcast live on Gabon state TV, Nguema said he expects the head of the dialogue, Catholic Archbishop Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, to come up with a roadmap that will determine the duration of the transitional government.

Nguema has ruled Gabon since the military ousted President Ali Ben Bongo in a bloodless coup last August. Before then, the Bongo family had ruled Gabon with a tight grip for more than 55 years.

Iba-Ba said the massive turnout of politicians, civil society members, youth leaders, traditional rulers, clergy and people living with disabilities indicates how much Gabon’s citizens want better living conditions and freedom to express themselves without fear of harassment.

Iba-Ba said the ongoing dialogue should heal the wounds inflicted on the people of Gabon by the central African states’ former leaders who were more interested in power than the people they were called upon to lead.

He said the dialogue should not be like previous conferences, which gave Gabon’s former leaders more powers and failed to solve the country’s economic, social and political problems.

Iba-Ba said participants in the dialogue will examine some 50,000 suggestions on how to make Gabon a better place to live.

Officials say the dialogue will propose the political, economic, and social organization of the central African nation after the transition.

In an initial timeline published by the transitional government, General Nguema was to rule for 24 months, until the holding of elections in August 2025.

But Gabon’s transitional government now says the dialogue will examine a draft constitution that would be approved by a referendum on a date chosen by Nguema. After that, the government would hold elections to transfer power to civilian rulers.

Opposition and civil society groups say the general invited about 100 senior military officers and about 250 people who were loyal to the ousted Bongo regime because he wants to extend his stay in power.

They say Nguema, while serving as commander of Gabon’s presidential guard, collaborated with acting and former senior state functionaries.

Political analyst Romuald Assogho Obiang told Gabon’s state TV that Nguema should have organized elections to hand power to civilians who would have the mandate of the people to decide if an inclusive national dialogue is a priority.

Obiang, a member of Gabon’s Civil Society, a coalition of concerned political groups in the central African state, said there are indications that Nguema wants to extend his mandate after the dialogue under the pretext of implementing resolutions of the major national dialogue attended by people loyal to the military ruler.

The dialogue may mean nothing if another leader takes power and has other preferences, Obiang added.

Nguema and his supporters say the dialogue will set the rules for future elections and will decide who can be a candidate in Gabon’s presidential elections. Nguema said he will respect those resolutions.

additional source : voice of africa