In what can only be described as a completely unrelated series of events, Gabon’s government has decided to throw an impromptu nighttime party called a curfew and also disable the internet. How did they explain this peculiar move? Well, they claim that “calls for violence … and false information” are running rampant as their general election concludes. Because, you know, nothing says “peaceful election” like cutting off the lights and muting the online chatter.
But, hold your chuckles, because skeptics aren’t quite buying the official explanation. Apparently, this is now the trendiest fashion in African elections: when the folks in charge want to count the votes while no one’s watching, they flip the internet switch off. It’s like playing hide and seek, but the ones hiding are the ones in power. How convenient! Of course, this digital vanishing act benefits no one except the folks currently running the show.
In a surprising twist that absolutely no one could have predicted, Gabon’s government pulled out its party hat and announced that they’d be enforcing bedtime. Starting from Sunday, the Communications Minister, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, declared on TV that they’re rolling out a curfew during the night to combat the ever-dreaded “spread of calls for violence… and false information.” As an added bonus, they’re also hosting an internet blackout extravaganza, with the main attraction being “no access until further notice.” Talk about exclusive events!
Election day arrived, and it was like waking up to find your favorite TV show suddenly replaced with a rerun of the static channel. Gabonese citizens queued up for their presidential, legislative, and local elections, all while President Ali Bongo Ondimba tried for the third time to win the ultimate prize – a third term in office. Meanwhile, the opposition decided it was finally time to spoil the party and put an end to the Bongo family’s epic 55-year-long celebration. It’s like trying to convince someone that the cake isn’t actually that delicious after they’ve been eating it for five decades.
The reigning monarch of this political dynasty, Ali Bongo Ondimba, took the throne back in 2009 after his father Omar decided it was time to take a vacation from power – a vacation that lasted for over 40 years, that is. The election is basically a talent show where Ali gets to demonstrate his fanbase’s enthusiasm for his performance. Last time around, he managed to win by a margin so slim you’d need a microscope to see it properly. This, of course, led to a heated debate where some folks accused him of employing magic tricks to manipulate the outcome. Abracadabra, democracy style!
Of course, no dramatic election story is complete without a subplot involving the main character’s health. In 2018, Ali Bongo suffered a stroke that left everyone wondering if he had misplaced his “Presidenting for Dummies” guidebook. Despite the setbacks, he’s been determined to keep the show going, even if he sometimes mixes up his lines.
As the curtains were supposed to rise on the election day spectacle at 8 a.m., it seems like someone forgot to sound the alarm. Polling stations in the capital, Libreville, experienced some technical difficulties – a polite way of saying they were fashionably late to the party. Social media posts, the modern-day equivalent of shouting from rooftops, confirmed that some places managed to hit their marks on time. Others, however, were still fumbling for their scripts long after the designated starting time.
Beyond the drama of picking a president, the citizens were also treated to a side quest: selecting candidates for the legislature and local councils. But wait, there’s a plot twist! The opposition parties raised their eyebrows and cried foul over a last-minute rule change that basically turned voting into a two-for-one deal. Now, casting a vote for a local deputy means you’re also automatically giving a thumbs-up to their preferred presidential candidate. Because why just vote once when you can vote twice, right?
In this dazzling finale of Gabon’s election season, the government truly knows how to throw a party – a party with a curfew, an internet blackout, and rules that sound like they were designed during a game of Mad Libs. It’s a performance that will go down in history, leaving us all wondering if we accidentally stumbled into a political theater or if this is just the new norm.