G. Pascal Zachary
When models are smarter than diplomats and presidents, is the end of the world near?
I jest of course, but seriously, the complaint about the fear of
rigged elections, by Gabon’s most famous beautiful woman, deserves a
wide hearing — and reminds that the political charades in Africa may be
tolerated by the great and the good but that even an “ordinary” fashion
star perceives the folly that often goes under the name of “elections.”
Gloria Mika is of course no political scientist and she probably
doesn’t even spend a lot of time in her home country of Gabon, choosing
instead to catwalk around the runways of Europe. But while the august
statesmen at the African Union and the great brains at the World Bank
and the United Nations have failed to call for a halt to folly that is
Gabon’s upcoming election, Mika has decided enough is enough. After 42
years of Omar Bongo as president-cum-dicatator of her resource-rich,
sparsely=populated country, Mika thinks maybe, just maybe, the citizens
of Gabon should not face the choice of electing Bonbo’s son as their
“Forty-two years with the same president could make the citizens feel like: ‘What can we do anyway?’” she told BBC.
Now why can’t Obama say this or Zuma of South Africa or Wade of
Senegal or Museveni of Uganda? Why can’t African leaders, so often
found complaining about how their moral senses are not taken seriously,
say what this fashion model has said?
The question is rhetorical. We know why. African leaders still hold
fast to the notion of family dynasties, of passing power from father to
son — or wife — or political lackey.
I applaud Mika’s courage in refusing to accept the folly of Gabon,
in refusing to deny the reality that the African Union refuses to
recognize. A new dictatorship is emerging in Gabon, or rather, the old
dictatorship is changing its face.
Mika, who is the face of L’Oreal cosmetics, left Gabon at the age of
16 and lives in Paris. In her interview, she noted that because Gabon’s
election later this month will be decided in only a single round, the
winner — out of 23 candidates — might only need 20 percent of the vote.
That is only one technical flaw in the balloting. The biggest:
allowing Bongo’s son to become one of the candidates. He and all others
with links to the Bongo regime should have been banned from contesting,
and the election itself should have been held later in the year in
order to allow candidates to organize around real reformers. Having
been robbed of true civic life for so many decades, the people of Gabon
should have been given a months — not weeks — in order to “exercize”
the machinery of free speech and political association.
Instead, the sun will quickly set on Gabon’s “experiment” in
elections, and the African Union, which could have objected to the
election but hasn’t, will give critics fresh reasons for viewing this
organization as an obstacle to the advancement of the peoples of the