By Ajong Mbapndah L
The Gabonese people are frustrated by a second electoral hold up by President Ali Bongo, says Frank Joctane who represented the campaign of Jean Ping during the recent Presidential elections in Washington, DC. In Washington, DC, his candidate Jean Ping won 71% of the vote while Ali Bongo scored 26% and Joctane says Gabonese just want their voices to be heard and their votes respected.
An IT Specialist, Joctane, one of the most visible faces of the Gabonese diaspora in the U.S calling for change, believes that it is time for the Bongo chapter to be turned in the history of his country. Defending Jean Ping from criticisms of not reigning in his supporters, Joctane describes the post electoral violence as a regrettable manifestation of frustration by Gabonese tired of their will been taken for granted. With the Constitutional Council addressing petitions from both Ping and Bongo, Joctane says a wrong decision could throw Gabon into greater chaos.
Your candidate Jean Ping is contesting the results on what grounds are his claims based on?
He is contesting the election because of only one region the Haut Ogouee, where Ali Bongo claimed that he won over 98% of that electorate with 99% of that electorate participating. The result given by the governor of the Haut Ogouee and the result given by the CENAP (Electoral Commission) are different. A Fact which reveals fraud, and tempering of the results.
Does your candidate have faith in the constitutional court of Gabon and will he accept the decision if the court confirms that indeed the winner of the elections was Ali Bongo?
We do not have faith in the constitutional court of Gabon, because it has a track record of leaning one way, always protecting the interest of the ruling family the Bongo and their allies. Jean Ping feels the same way. I do not know if Jean Ping will accept the decision of the court if this one declares Mr. Ali Bongo the winner of this presidential election. However, I do know that he said that he will be standing by the side of the Gabonese people who desire that their vote count and that their choice for once be respected.
After the elections, a number of public offices were burnt down by supporters of Jean Ping including the National Assembly, why did your candidate Mr Ping not let the electoral process play through?
I do not think that is what really transpired. Indeed, public offices were burnt down, but I am not convinced that they were burnt down by Jean Ping’s supporters for the reason given. I believe that the majority of the Gabonese people frustrated by a second attempt to an electoral hold up, started to burn. Ping did let the electoral process play through, we are all now awaiting the result from the constitutional court.
Mr Ping has been criticized for not acting Presidential by calling for calm amongst his supporters, what is your response to those who say he is more interested in his victory and not what happens to Gabon?
I do understand those who claimed that Mr. Ping is not acting Presidential by calling for calm amongst his supporters, however I disagree with them. Mr. Ping is being sensitive to the frustration of a people who have endured 50 years of tyranny. For 50 years, Gabonese people were denied political change. Gabonese people are frustrated and in particular the youth that represents the bulk of the Gabonese population. People need to understand that this was a referendum, the Gabonese people voted against Ali Bongo and his party, they voted against a system. The violence has nothing to do with Jean Ping but it has to do with a people being fed up with a system, Bongo/PDG that does not serve the interest of the Gabonese people. So that as far as I am concerned, I believe that the violence that we are witnessing in Gabon is the result of the people’s frustration than a desire for Jean Ping to access power at all cost.
In the course of the campaigns, Mr Ping and the opposition coalition spent more time on issues like the nationality of President Bongo and less on the specifics of what they will do for Gabon, can you remind us of the platform or program that he had in Gabon?
Here we go again, I do not believe that is true. What is true is that Ali Bongo Ondimba should not have been allowed to run for president period. Ali Bongo is Gabonese through adoption. He is originally from Nigeria, according to our constitution, in order to run for president, one must be born from at least one parent who is Gabonese. Jean Ping traveled all over the country in order to inquire what are the pressing needs of the Gabonese people. Mr. Jean Ping ran for president on those premises. He wants the Gabonese people to be safe from fear and want. « Le Gabon à l’abri de la peur, le Gabon à l’abri du besoin. »
Gabonese say there have had enough of the Bongo dynasty, but considering that Jean Ping, Casimir Oye Mba and others in the opposition coalition are products of Bongo, ,why should Gabonese think that a Ping presidency will be better for them?
As I said earlier, the people voted against Ali Bongo Ondimba instead of for Jean Ping. The Gabonese people are thirsty for change, they want to get rid of the Bongo dynasty they opted for Jean Ping to achieve this purpose. That’s all I am convinced that the process of change in Gabon has begun with the defeat of Ali Bongo. I also believe that a lot of pressure will be put on Jean Ping to deliver what the Gabonese people desire. If he fails to do so, he will not be able to govern properly. So he has no choice, it has to be better for his own sake.
In 2010 in the heat of the contentious elections in Ivory Coast, calls from the Gbagbo camp for a recount were rejected by Jean Ping when he was Chair of the African Union, why should a recount be a credible solution in Gabon when it was not considered as a solution in Ivory Coast?
I am not Jean Ping so may not be able to answer that question adequately, the way you want me to. I will simply say that Ali Bongo Ondimba rigged the election, the only way to bring that to light is a recount. The EU, the US, the AU see the wisdom in recounting the vote polling station by polling station so let us recount the votes.
Still on criticisms of Mr Ping, from the phone tapes with an Ivorian directing him on how to make the country ungovernable , to frequent calls for the international community to intervene and visibly open support from countries like France, do you understand when some people think that Jean Ping will just be an agent of foreign interests in Gabon?
I do understand but I also do know that there is a new generation of Gabonese people who desire to influence directly their destiny in Gabon and Gabon’s destiny. So if Jean Ping wants to serve the interest of others before his own people I believe that he will be confronted strongly with his own people.
As someone who lives in a country where contentions in elections are settled differently, what message do you have for your compatriots both in your camp and in the camp of Ali Bongo, atleast you all are first and foremost Gabonese.
I will simply say that it is important that the will of the people be respected. In august 27th, 2016 the Gabonese people voted, they chosed a president let them have the president that they picked. This time around the country will not be peaceful if once again the will of the people is denied. The Gabonese people desire democracy, they want a country where the rule of law is a reality and it must start by respecting the result of the election.
Thanks for granting this interview
Thank you so very much for giving me the opportunity to talk about my country.