Gabon will play a leading role at the UN Security Council
By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC.
June 8, 2011
Gabon’s President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba says his country has a key role to play on the world stage as that central African country assumes the presidency of the U.N. Security Council. And Mr. Ondimba says that Gabon will stand with NATO on Libya, because of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s continued refusal to step down.
In a keynote speech on U.S.-Africa relations at the United Nations, President Ondimba said that Africa is becoming more active on the world stage and with regard to Libya.
“As a member of the United Nations Security Council and surest chairman of the rotational presidency, Gabon has a key role to play. The Arab Spring and in particular the events in Libya have demonstrated clearly the developmental challenge that faces Africa as a whole. The obvious failures of governments to deliver a true social contract for their people are the root cause of the events we have witnessed.”
President Ondimba says that Africans expect their leaders to govern with a vision and to understand that democracy today is not about just having elections but about building democratic institutions. But he says the full realization of this democratic ideal can be sometimes difficult.
“You should encourage and support those of us who generally respect democratic principles and rule of law. Respect for national institutional principles cannot be separated from the respect for individuals. While we leaders are expected to govern with vision our respect for institutions is the ultimate safeguard for stable and strong democracies and the ultimate security for citizens to know that their collective will is taken into account. “
Historically, Gabon has depended on timber and manganese until oil was discovered offshore in the early 1970s. Gabon is trying to diversify its economy amid declining oil production.
President Ondimba said that the telecommunications industry in Africa is more important than ever before.
“Telecommunications is probably the most widely known success story on the African continent and at the same time directly contributed to the revolution in N. Africa. Today a rural farmer or herder can use his mobile phone to call ahead to market towns and find out where he can find the best price for his goods. He can leverage this information to bargain with buyers. In the same way social activists can communicate and coordinate dissent circumventing the requirement for physical contact and making it difficult for governments to quell opposition.”
Gabon has long been dependent on oil and gas as its main source of income. The Central African country is ranked third largest producer of oil in Africa but the country’s petroleum output has been declining for years.
On paper, Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, but because of income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor, and President Ondimba acknowledges that the development of Gabon still has a long way to go.