Every day in Libreville, retirees wait for very long hours from dawn in front of their seaside cash register, to claim pensions that have never been paid, sometimes for years.
But, once empty-handed and resigned after several hours in oppressive heat, today there are dozens of them waiting full of hope. And impatience: the general who fell President Ali Bongo Ondimba two weeks ago made the end of their ordeal his very first promise.
Léonie Oumtoma is tired. She no longer knows how many times she waited at the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) center in Batavia, in the center of the capital, simply to find out the progress of her file.
“I am already a grandmother, I am old. I lost my husband in 2017, I filed my application in 2018 but since then I have received nothing, every time I leave I come back, I leave I come back” , she laments, before blurting out: “And I don’t even know how much they’re going to give me…”.
On August 30, the army overthrew Ali Bongo, who had just been proclaimed re-elected, in an election deemed fraudulent by the military, who also accused his regime of massive corruption and calamitous governance.
Two days later, their leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema, appointed transitional president, lost his temper in front of 200 to 300 Gabonese bosses under the eye of the cameras: he vowed to "put an end to the suffering" of retirees and the sick by placing public retirement and health funds “immediately” “under private sector management”.
In front of the CNSS in Batavia, as always, there are several dozen of them sitting on plastic chairs a few days later. “I’m a widow but I haven’t received a cent from my husband’s pension for two years,” breathes Henriette Nset, a 57-year-old trader.
There are thousands in this case, the opposition and civil society have been warning for years.
One in three inhabitants lives below the poverty line (less than 2 euros per day) in Africa's third richest country in per capita income thanks to its oil, according to the World Bank.
Wealth has therefore been concentrated in the hands of a small ruling class since the 55 years of reign of the Bongo family: 14 for Ali and 41 for his father Omar Bongo Ondimba before him.
Aristide Mouanda, 57, has been retired for a year. This technician “worked almost everywhere in the private sector” but never received anything from his pension despite several reminders. Life expectancy in Gabon was 66 years in 2021, according to the World Bank.
“I’ve been waiting for my pension for two years,” says François Moussavou, 58 years old. “I am forced to dip into my savings to provide for the needs of my little family,” he says.
Despite the general's promise, we will still have to return to the CNSS in Batavia. The annoyance turns to bronca: a “technical problem” leads to its premature closure in the middle of the morning.
Romaric Ngomo Menie, inspector general at the CNSS, says he is aware of the suffering of retirees. “It “was absolutely necessary for the State to intervene to try to revive all governance and put the CNSS back on track”, the president of the transition “wants results quickly because he cares about social protection”, recites- he.
All that remains for Aristide Mouanda, like others, is to hope “that with the new power, things will change”.
The general, who promises to "return power to civilians" through elections after the transition, has held numerous meetings with all the "active forces of the Nation", quickly set up a government and multiplied promises in favor of "the most poor".
But the hope that it has given rise to among a large majority of Gabonese people who applaud every day an army which has "liberated them from the Bongo clan", is already arousing impatience. And strikes by employees who have not received their salaries for months or accuse their employers of “slavery”.
14/09/2023 17:38:45 - Libreville (AFP) - © 2023 AFP