WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two United States citizens are currently being held in inhumane conditions and subjected to torture in Gabon, according to Séraphin Moundounga, a former official of the central African nation who resigned two months ago.
Moundounga, 52, served as Gabon's deputy prime minister and attorney general until he fled the country in late September after incumbent president Ali Bongo Ondimba refused to concede defeat following the August 27, 2016 presidential election. Instead, he says, Bongo Ondimba ordered a brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators and unprecedented human rights violations. "I told the president this has to stop. We're still young and we can make a comeback at the next elections," Moundounga says. His appeals fell to deaf ears. In the end, Moundounga had to flee the country because of an attempt on his life and multiple death threats. Last Friday his former personal assistant while in government was found dead in the woods.
According to Moundounga, several dozen people have been killed so far, hundreds are missing and thousands have been imprisoned. "What we're witnessing in Gabon is a return to an open dictatorship," Moundounga says. "In their own little minds, you're either with them or against them."
The former Gabonese lawmaker says the United States can help in three critical ways.
First, Americans can impose "targeted, smart sanctions" on officials responsible for the massacre and abuses that followed the August polls. Moundounga cites a precedent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the U.S. imposed sanctions against the chief of police last June for massive abuses. "It's the same region and the same context; the outcome cannot reasonably be different," Moundounga says.
The U.S. can also help by demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including the two Americans.
Finally, the U.S. can guarantee safe passage to the defeated president so that he may resettle in another country without fear for his life or that of his family. "We are moved by a generation of young Gabonese people who are demanding simply that their votes are counted and justice be done," says Moundounga. "If these young people stop believing in elections, we will undoubtedly go back to an age where coup d'états are the norm rather than an exception."
With a population of 1.7 million, Gabon is formally classified as a middle income nation. Its economy rests on the extraction of oil, uranium and other minerals. It was ruled by Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo Ondimba's father, from 1967 until his death in 2009.
SOURCE Gabonese-American Council on Human Rights and Good Governance