Human rights in Gabon, a country in Central Africa, are not as good as they should be. Even though Gabon is wealthier than many other African countries, human rights violations and poverty are issues the country still deals with.
The U.S. Department of State reports that prison conditions are the primary violation of human rights in Gabon. Overcrowding, substandard sanitation and ventilation, as well as poor food and healthcare quality, are all problems in Gabon prisons. Some people in holding were not allowed contact with lawyers or family for several days, even if he or she had not been charged, which violates Gabonese law.
The 2016 election led to several violations of human rights in Gabon. Many non-warranted arrests were made as a result of the controversial election. Labor unions, politicians and opinion leaders were arrested, and disappearances took place shortly before election day in August. Abusive behavior by prison guards toward detainees was commonly reported after the election, and somewhere between 20 and 50 civilians and protesters were killed by government workers.
Free speech and assembly took hits as well. Some publications in Gabon closed and were threatened by the Ministry of Communications for criticizing the government. Measures such as tear gas were used against activists during protests also.
Women work freely and are able to seek the position of their choosing, but must have their husbands’ consent before traveling. Rape often goes unreported due to unfortunate social stigmas, which may also hinder the LGBT community.
Yet, steps are being taken to improve the condition of human rights in Gabon, including expanding internet access. Since the election, Ali Bongo, the current president, took action toward reducing the government corruption that largely accumulated during the 42-year reign of his father Omar Bongo.
According to Freedom House, Bongo “eliminated ghost workers from the public payroll” and “formed the National Commission against Illegal Enrichment to combat corruption”. He also created a task force to address the millions of missing dollars from previous projects and to donate his portion of his father’s estate to the children of Gabon.
However, additional action will need to be taken to improve human rights in Gabon. It is currently ranked 99 out of 168 countries for government corruption. If Ali Bongo makes the improvement of human rights a priority, Gabon can rise above its current state.
– Emma Tennyson