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Gabon Ministere de la Defense Nationale

Ali Bongo's most important constituency, and the key to his ability to claim the presidency, is the security forces. As defense minister, Bongo oversaw significant improvements in the pay, housing, equipment, training and other benefits for the army, navy, air force, Republican Guard and paramilitary gendarmerie. A political ally, Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame, oversees the National Police, who had not been has heavily favored. While Bongo has succeeded in placing key allies in senior positions in various security forces--many of them ethnic Teke and a few of them his relatives--he may have done so at the cost of creating real but hidden frustration among non-Teke officers and enlisted personnel.

President Omar Bongo solidified his control over the national security forces by strategically placing key individuals, often family members, in positions of authority. For example, his nephew Idriss Ngari and his son Ali Ben Bongo both served as minister of defense, and his brother-in-law once ran the national police. Highly paid expatriates from the Provence region of France held important positions throughout the security forces. These expatriates, often referred to as Bongo’s “Corsican Mafia,” reported to and were accountable only to Bongo. Some of these expatriates also served in Bongo’s Presidential Guard. These individuals strongly supported the regime and had a reputation for using harsh tactics to maintain the stability of the regime and the country. These units would likely remain loyal to current President Ali Ben Bongo.

In a move that caught some senior military officers by surprise, in December 2008 Gabonese President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba carried out a wide-ranging reshuffle of senior military and security posts. Gen. Jean Claude Ella-Ekogha took the helm as chief of staff of Gabon's armed forces (incorporating the army, navy and air force, but distinct from the gendarmerie and the elite Republican Guard). Ella-Ekogha had served previously as army chief of staff and in the office of Minister of Defense Ali Bongo. He also led a multinational peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic. Ella-Ekogha replaces outgoing General Jean Ntori Longho, the longest-serving officer in the Gabonese Army. Ntori Longho would move into a quasi-retirement status and seemed visibly delighted with the prospect.

Nevertheless, Ntori Longho's departure and that of other senior officers appeared to mark more than simple generational change. At the gendarmerie, long-serving Gen. Honore Olery will also become a semi-retired "advisor" on security issues, with command passing to his former deputy General Abel Sougou. Gabon's new navy chief is Admiral Herve Nambo Ndouany, who like many others in the new crop of officers was viewed as closer to Minister of Defense Ali Bongo.

The 2008 reshuffle was the largest since Ali Bongo became Defense Minister in 1999, and appeared to mark another step forward in what many see as the consolidation of his influence over Gabon's security forces. Ali Bongo appeared to have marginalized rivals like retired General Idriss Ngari, who wielded little power as Minister of Tourism and National Parks. Senior Gabonese officials also noted that Ali Bongo's influence extended over all three of Gabon's main security structures -- the armed forces, the gendarmerie and the Republican Guard. President Bongo had previously encouraged a degree of rivalry among these forces, and had never allowed a single individual to exercise this degree of power over them.

When receiving the vows of the Forces of Defence and Security January 29, 2016, the Minister of National Defence, Mathias OTOUNGA OSSIBADJOUO, in his speech below, summoned for a truly apolitical army, backbone of a solid democracy. "The Ministry of Defence, sentinel of the nation, remains fully mobilized in the collective action of the state, led by HE Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic, Head of State, Supreme Chief of the Forces e Defence and Security, Minister of Defence of the square is in the forces, as close to his soldiers. Being all met at Camp Baraka, in these mythical places, deeply committed to the fate Gabon is another strong symbol."

"Many challenges lie ahead: the increasing insecurity, the growing imbalance between North and South, the widespread proliferation of terrorism now able to strike at the heart of our territory, a major military threat can not be ignored. Our territory is more threatened than it was. This changing context of a changing world requires us to adapt our defense instrument.

"There are also serious budget constraints: those whose barrel oil sells for less than $30 and those of the Ministry itself, with the needs of men and equipment loans constantly increasing. If we add the needs of other departments, it is well understood that the constraints are strong and that these constraints we impose more rigorously.

"Then only will we reform leeway to maintain the overall consistency of our military capabilities, ensure the participation and training standards, strengthen the capacity for action of forces, continue to improve Soldier condition. For, said an illustrious General, "the morale of the soldier is in his bowl."

"First, the Department management should be improved, to establish a more transparent governance and clarifying roles, for more efficiency. The interarmisation then must take a decisive step, a qualitative leap because there are more and more integrated operations land-air-sea and many common functions are joint nature. And so, to foster these synergies should be sought - whenever possible - the same procedures, the same standards and the same materials. We need inter-armisation, pooling of support but also outsourcing where it makes the system more efficient.

"I think for example to a part of the infrastructure. Where infrastructure is specifically military or require the protection of secrecy, they must be followed internally. Otherwise, there is no reason not to outsource as do all public authorities and all companies. I think of the territorial restructuring : allowances should be densified in a joint spirit and the shared global support whatever the color of the uniform. There would be only two criteria: preserving the operational capacity and improving the living conditions of soldiers. The test could be MINKEBE. I think of the barracks as "pools of military life," which would facilitate the life of families, children's schooling and professional activity of spouses, while allowing to have support and general administration to all units."

At a large scale ceremony held Saturday, March 26, 2016 in the gymnasium of the Military Academy of Libreville, the wives of staff of the Defence Forces united in the Federation of Associations of wives Personal Defense Forces ( FAEPFD ) had a prelude to the presidential election of August, bringing their deposit and their unwavering commitment to Ali Bongo, candidate of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).

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Page last modified: 07-09-2016 19:37:17 ZULU