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TITLE:  GABON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                          GABON


President Omar Bongo has ruled Gabon since 1967, but internal 
pressures beginning in late 1989 forced him to acquiesce to 
sweeping political reforms, including the promulgation of a new 
Constitution providing for many basic freedoms and explicitly 
abolishing the former system of one-party rule.  However, the 
National Assembly is still controlled by Bongo's former party 
(the Gabonese Democratic Party, or PDG), which won a majority 
of seats in multiparty legislative elections in 1990.  Although 
the PDG supported independent candidate Bongo in the 1993 
Presidential elections, Bongo had relinquished all formal ties 
with the PDG before the electoral campaign.  There are also 
deputies from eight other political parties.

President Bongo's current 7-year term expires in February 
1994.  In keeping with the 1991 Constitution and the 
recommendations of the 1990 National Conference, presidential 
elections took place in December.  In an election marked by 
administrative chaos and attempts by supporters of several 
candidates to influence the outcome illegally, Bongo received 
51.18 percent of the vote.  Following the proclamation of the 
election results, opposition presidential candidates filed suit 
with the Constitutional Court on December 20 to have the 
election annulled.  The Court, which is charged with verifying 
the results of all elections, must render a decision within 3 
months from the date the suit was filed.  Since the 
Constitution allows presidents to serve two 5-year terms, 
President Bongo's term would expire in 1999. 

Responsibility for internal security is shared by the 
gendarmerie (a paramilitary force of 2,700) and the national 
police (consisting of 2,000 troops).  Security forces regularly 
employ beatings when interrogating suspects.  The police and 
the gendarmerie came under criticism for not protecting 
opposition political gatherings from potential and actual 
violence (see Section 2.b.).

Gabon is richly endowed with petroleum, manganese, uranium, and 
vast timber resources, but it has experienced limited 
agricultural and industrial development and must import most of 
its food and manufactured goods.  Rain forest covers 85 percent 
of the country, and approximately half the 1.2 million 
population lives in rural areas.  Gabon's relatively high per 
capita income ($5,906 in 1992), based largely on oil revenues, 
belies the underdeveloped nature of the country and its 
economy.  Due to the precipitous fall in revenue from oil 
exports in the late 1980's and an increasing debt load, the 
Government imposed limited austerity measures to meet 
International Monetary Fund program criteria in 1991.  Since 
independence, Gabon's economic policy has followed a free 
market orientation and welcomed foreign investment.

In 1993 the Government carefully controlled the political 
process culminating in the December presidential elections.  It 
introduced preelectoral measures, namely, a new Electoral Code, 
a general census, a voting register, and several commissions to 
oversee the actual elections.  At the same time, it engaged in 
or facilitated a series of steps during the year which 
seriously impinged on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and 
association and harassed political and human rights critics.  
Other human rights abuses included the security forces' 
mistreatment of illegal aliens, detainees, and prisoners and 
legal discrimination and societal violence against women. 

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There was one confirmed report of extrajudicial killing carried 
out by security forces.  During demonstrations that followed 
the announcement of President Bongo's election victory, members 
of the Presidential Guard detained, then publicly shot and 
killed a demonstrator.  A soldier was arrested in this case, 
and both the Government and the military were carrying out 
investigations at year's end.  In the following 2 weeks, there 
were at least three additional confirmed reports of security 
forces using lethal force against demonstrators or curfew 
violators.

In addition, there was an unconfirmed report that one person 
died in prison when he was deprived of water.  An investigation 
was still ongoing into the death of "Fantomas," a prisoner who 
died in police custody in 1992.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no confirmed cases of disappearances or abductions 
ascribed to government security forces or any other group.


     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits the use of torture and inhuman or 
extreme mistreatment.  Gabonese security forces and prison 
guards frequently use beatings, not only to obtain confessions 
but also simply to exercise authority over prisoners.  Credible 
witnesses visiting imprisoned nationals report such beatings, 
along with routine strippings and head shavings.  In the case 
of Louis-Venant Makomambasa (see Section 1.d.), in which there 
were political and security aspects, his relatives reported 
that he had been beaten and harshly interrogated.  However, 
following his release, the family elected not to press charges 
and therefore no investigation was carried out.

Conditions in most prisons are abysmal; sanitation and 
ventilation are very poor, and medical care is almost 
nonexistent.  Only minimal food is provided, and there are 
reports that prisoners are deprived of water as a further means 
of punishment.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law provides for up to 48 hours of initial preventive 
detention, after which either a court's judgment must be 
delivered, or a more lengthy investigation opened.  In 
practice, however, prisoners are often held longer without 
charge, especially in security-related cases.  In a highly 
publicized case, a member of the gendarmerie, Louis-Venant 
Makomambasa, was accused of passing military secrets to a 
leading opposition political party.  He was arrested, 
questioned, then released.  One week later, relatives reported 
that he had again been detained, and that he was held without 
charge, tortured, and otherwise mistreated.  After 3 weeks, he 
was again released.

There were reports that the authorities called in opposition 
members and union members for short periods of questioning.  
There were also occasional, unconfirmed reports from the 
interior that local officials held people briefly in connection 
with political activities.  As far as known, the Government did 
not press charges in these cases.

The Government continued to detain frequently--usually for 
short periods--illegal aliens suspected of violating the law.  
(see Section 2.d.).  


There were no known political detainees or prisoners being held 
at year's end.

Exile is not used as a punishment or means of political control 
in Gabon, and there are no opposition leaders currently living 
in forced exile.  Pierre Mamboundou, who was convicted in 
absentia for involvement in a 1989 coup plot, returned to Gabon 
in 1993 to present himself as a presidential candidate.  
Although he experienced some difficulty boarding a plane in 
Dakar, no action was taken against him upon his return.  The 
conviction against Mamboundou still exists, but there had been 
no action taken to prosecute him at year's end.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system includes the normal court system, a 
Military Tribunal to handle all offenses under military law, a 
State Security Court, which is a civilian tribunal, and a 
Special Criminal Court that deals with fraud and embezzlement 
of funds by public officials.  There are no traditional or 
customary courts, but in some areas family disputes may be 
taken before a village chief for resolution.  However, chiefs' 
decisions have no legal weight and are not recognized by the 
Government.

The regular civilian court has three levels:  the trial court; 
the appellate court; and the Supreme Court, which has three 
chambers.  The 1991 Constitution transformed what had been the 
fourth chamber into the Constitutional Court, an independent 
body which is devoted solely to constitutional questions.

The right to a fair public trial is provided for in the 
Constitution and is generally respected in criminal cases.  
Nevertheless, procedural safeguards are lacking, particularly 
in state security trials, where the judiciary remains 
potentially vulnerable to intervention by the executive.  In 
these courts, trials are open to the public, and defendants are 
represented by counsel, but appeals to the Supreme Court are 
restricted to raising points of law.  The State Security Court 
is not a permanent body and is called into existence only as 
the Government determines to hear security cases.  It was last 
convoked in 1990 to hear the coup plot cases of 1989-90.

The new Constitutional Court, invested in February 1992, has 
demonstrated that it can act independently of the Government.  
Its decisions were integrated into the 1993 Electoral Code 
which governed the country's first multiparty presidential 
elections in December.  In November the Court declared 
unconstitutional several articles of a press decree proposed by 
the President, including an article which would have required 
newspaper publishers to submit copy to the Minister of 
Territorial Administration prior to publication (see Section 
2.a.).

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
         Correspondence

The Constitution provides protection against searches without 
warrant and surveillance of individuals or other invasions of 
privacy.  Legally authorized searches of private homes may 
occur only during designated hours.  Since the promulgation of 
the new Constitution, extralegal abuses of this nature have 
decreased.  Nevertheless, search warrants often require minimal 
justification and may even be issued after the fact.  
Government authorities have used warrants to gain access to the 
homes of opposition leaders and their families although there 
were no confirmed cases of forced entry without warrant.  The 
Government also regularly exercises surveillance of private 
citizens' movements, correspondence, and telephone 
conversations.  There have been credible reports of government 
and military personnel being discharged, transferred, or denied 
promotion because of membership or association with opposition 
parties.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the right of free speech and 
press.  People speak freely, including in the National Assembly.

There are nine weekly independent and opposition newspapers in 
addition to the government-controlled daily, L'Union.  In April 
the first opposition radio station, Radio Liberte, began 
broadcasting and in September Television Liberte commenced 
operation.  The ruling PDG also began a radio station and 
part-time television service.  During the presidential 
campaign, media, especially those controlled by political 
parties, but also L'Union, published numerous allegations of 
corruption against politicians of all stripes and launched 
personal attacks on political leaders and their families.

A disturbing trend, however, was the growing tendency by 
security elements to resort to intimidation and extralegal acts 
(such as electronic jamming and the confiscation of 
transmitting equipment) in an attempt to influence the 
opposition media.  In July, in response to opposition press 
attacks on the Government and the military, the Ministers of 
Defense and Territorial Administration convoked opposition 
press leaders and demanded more responsible journalistic 
practices.  Unidentified security elements subjected Radio 
Liberte, whose legal status was disputed by the Minister of 
Communications, to electronic jamming on numerous occasions 
throughout 1993, with the complicity of the Government.  In 
another incident, the Governor of Tchibanga dismantled a Radio 
Liberte transmitter which was eventually restored to its 
owners.  On December 16, the facilities of another independent 
radio station, Frequence Libre, were destroyed by an 
unidentified group of commandos operating after the 
government-imposed curfew.  At year's end, an investigation was 
pending.

In early September, following the publication of an article in 
an opposition paper alleging that human sacrifices were taking 
place at the Presidency, the Prime Minister issued a decree 
prohibiting the publication of any newspaper not in conformity 
with a preindependence press code and existing commercial 
regulations.  This measure effectively banned for nearly 2 
months the publication of all but a handful of papers 
controlled by supporters of the President.  On October 7, 
President Bongo, acting under his constitutional powers to pass 
legislation by decree when the National Assembly is not in 
session, issued a comprehensive press decree.  The National 
Communications Council and an opposition Deputy immediately 
challenged this decree, and the Constitutional Court 
subsequently ruled several of its provisions unconstitutional, 
including requirements that newspapers register as commercial 
entities and submit copy to government authorities before 
publication.  With the unconstitutional articles deleted, the 
National Assembly approved the press decree before the end of 
its 1993 session, and the decree will enter into force in 
February 1994.

International news is rebroadcast by Gabonese stations, and 
some foreign stations can be picked up via satellite.  Foreign 
periodicals and newspapers are widely available, including a 
number of sensational exposes of high-level corruption which 
appeared in the French press.  There were no government bans on 
foreign news.


There are no official restrictions on academic freedom, 
including research.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Recognized organizations (whether political, labor, youth, 
women's cultural, ethnic, or otherwise) enjoy freedom of 
assembly and association.  A number of political parties held 
parts of their party congresses in the National Assembly 
building itself.

Permits are required for all outdoor assemblies, and the police 
must be notified in advance.  By law, unauthorized 
demonstrations are not permitted, but in practice they often 
take place and are tolerated.  There were no known instances of 
the authorities prohibiting meetings or demonstrations for most 
of the year, but the Government imposed a state of alert in 
mid-December that banned all public meetings, and security 
forces prevented various opposition gatherings from taking 
place.

Gabonese authorities normally showed considerable restraint in 
dealing with demonstrators.  During the 2 weeks prior to the 
elections, police acted quickly and effectively to assure that 
demonstrations and confrontations between the opposition and 
the PDG remained peaceful.  However, during other times of the 
year security forces were noticeably absent from potentially 
troublesome situations, despite advance knowledge.  Police 
failed to defuse riots after an August soccer match that 
resulted in four deaths.  They were also absent from some 
opposition gatherings which were disrupted by violence 
attributed to street gangs paid by rival parties.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion, and the Constitution provides for 
religious freedom.  A significant number of Gabonese in urban 
areas are Catholic or Protestant, while both Christianity and 
traditional African religions are practiced in the interior.  
Less than 1 percent of Gabonese are Muslims, although the 
President and a significant number of the West African 
expatriate population--perhaps as many as 200,000--are Muslim.  
A number of foreign missionary groups engage in both 
evangelical and social projects with no government 
interference.  In 1970 the Government banned Jehovah's 
Witnesses, claiming that their activities fostered disunity.  
This ban has been neither rescinded nor actively enforced.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Although there are no legally mandated restrictions on internal 
movement, Gabonese nationals and expatriates alike frequently 
encounter difficulties.  Police and gendarmerie officials often 
stop travelers to examine identity, residence, and registration 
documents.  In May what were thought to be politically 
motivated groups formed barricades on many of the roads in 
Gabon's interior, demanding improved government facilities and 
services.  Many of these groups descended into lawlessness, 
extorting cash from travelers and damaging vehicles, thereby 
greatly restricting the flow of goods and people.  Government 
authorities eventually sent troops to clear out the barricades, 
and while there were arrests, there were no reports of serious 
violence or abuse.

The curfew and the state of alert imposed in mid-December 
placed limits on freedom of movement.  Police detained or fined 
anyone out after 10 p.m. and frequently stopped vehicles for 
random searches.  Routine identity checks also greatly 
increased.  During the 2 weeks immediately after announcement 
of election results, the authorities restricted travel of some 
opposition figures and others associated with the "Second 
Republic Government" of Paul Mba Abessole; two presidential 
candidates were barred from traveling to their hometowns, and 
one was not permitted to board a flight for Europe.

Gabonese nationals often encounter difficulties when they wish 
to travel abroad.  The Gabonese Center for Documentation 
requires extensive paperwork from Gabonese citizens in order to 
obtain a passport and often imposes delays of up to a year 
before granting the document.  An exit visa is required to 
leave the country.  Opposition members have complained that 
they have been subjected to stricter exit visa control than 
nonpolitically active citizens.  Women must have permission to 
travel from their husbands, which is sometimes denied, in order 
to obtain this visa.

Foreign nationals must pay the equivalent of $100 for an 
exit/reentry permit for each trip out of the country, and even 
with valid documents they often experience difficulties at 
ports of entry.  The authorities turn even documented 
foreigners away.

The roughly 250,000 African expatriates resident in Gabon 
encounter the greatest difficulties; residence cards cost over 
$1,000, and foreigners are often detained even when in 
possession of valid paperwork.  Requests for bribes are 
commonplace.

Gabon continues to control strictly the influx of foreign 
workers.  The Government has established a program of voluntary 
departure for illegal immigrants in cooperation with a number 
of African embassies and consulates, and this has greatly 
diminished the cases of mistreatment of undocumented 
immigrants.  Between 1992 and 1993, the Government forcibly 
repatriated approximately 15,000 Nigerians without due process. 

Gabon continues to exercise its own control over refugee 
identification, although coordination with the United Nations 
High Commissioner for Refugees has improved and statistics are 
more readily published.  There are about 150 refugees in Gabon; 
there were no reports of mistreatment or forced repatriation of 
refugees in 1993.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The 1991 Constitution provides for this right, including the 
right of citizens to organize and campaign in the political 
process.  There were serious irregularities in the 1990 
multiparty legislative elections, including ballot rigging by 
the PDG and other parties.  In March 1992, the National 
Assembly adopted an Electoral Code which gave the Ministry of 
Territorial Administration control of the organization of the 
1993 Presidential elections, with political parties and 
nongovernmental organizations given observer status.  Despite a 
long lead time, grants of material assistance from a number of 
countries, and offers of technical assistance from others, 
election preparations were inadequate, especially in Libreville 
where 40 percent of eligible voters reside.  On election day, 
the combination of inadequate organization and poorly trained 
election officials facilitated attempts by supporters of 
several candidates to influence the outcome, in particular 
through illegal trafficking in voter registration cards and 
multiple voting.  The vote count itself took place under 
chaotic conditions.  At midnight on December 9 when, according 
to several reports, votes were still being counted, the 
Minister of Territorial Administration issued results showing 
President Bongo the winner with 51.07 percent of the vote.

While the Constitutional Court subsequently proclaimed Bongo 
the winner of the elections, a petition was filed with the 
Court on December 20 by several other candidates to have the 
presidential election annulled.

The declaration of election results was followed immediately by 
the imposition of a state of alert which, under the provisions 
of a preindependence law, provides for the house arrest of 
persons judged dangerous to public order and suspension of 
certain rights, including the right of assembly and freedom 
from search without warrant.  The state of alert also permitted 
censorship of correspondence, the press, radio, film, and 
theater, limited the free circulation of persons and goods, and 
established a curfew.  By year's end, the Government had 
invoked only a few of these sanctions, most notably a ban on 
travel by opposition presidential candidates and frequent 
military roadblocks and checkpoints.  Citing organizational 
problems and an unsettled political climate, the Government 
postponed municipal elections, which had been scheduled for 
December 26, until March 27, 1994.

There are no legal restrictions on women or minorities in 
politics.  Some women have risen to positions of prominence in 
the Government.  Of the 120 Deputies in the National Assembly, 
6 are women, and 3 women head government ministries.  The 
President of the new Constitutional Court is a distinguished 
female jurist, and women head many of Gabon's human rights and 
nongovernmental organizations.

Despite constitutional protections, the indigenous Pygmies 
rarely participate in the political process, and the Government 
has made only marginal efforts to include them (see Section 5).

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
           of Human Rights

While the Government handles most investigations of human 
rights cases directly, it permits local human rights groups to 
function.  Several of these local groups have become 
increasingly vocal.  In the first report of direct government 
interference, the head of the Gabonese League of Human Rights 
claimed that he was subjected to official harassment following 
a broadcast on Radio Liberte in which he attacked the Minister 
of Communication's decree suspending the independent press.

There have been no active inquiries or participation from 
foreign groups in recent years, so the Government's attitude 
toward international inquiries is not known.


Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The 1991 Constitution forbids discrimination based on national 
origin, race, gender, or opinion, and there are no systematic 
government-sponsored activities carried out against any 
specific group.

     Women

Despite the new Constitution, women continue to face legal and 
societal discrimination.  A woman is still required to obtain 
her husband's permission to travel abroad, and in the case of 
her deceased husband's estate, his family has the right to 
claim large parts of the property.  The head of the 
Constitutional Court--a woman--and the League of Women Jurists 
are actively contesting these laws.

Urban-based women face much less societal discrimination than 
those living in rural areas.  They enjoy greater access to 
education, government employment, and private sector business 
opportunities than rural women, whose roles are determined by 
tradition and family and who bear the brunt of hard physical 
labor, both domestic and agricultural.  Urban women are more 
aware of their legal rights, including the right to own 
property, to associate and invest as they like, and to run 
businesses.  Gabon has a common property law, whereby all 
property and wealth obtained after marriage is owned jointly by 
the husband and wife; however, a spouse may not demand half 
control of anything his or her partner earned or gained before 
the marriage.  Women may also initiate divorce proceedings and 
women have initiated and won suits against discriminatory 
employers.

Violence against women, including wife beating, does occur, 
especially in rural areas.  Villagers do not frown upon rural 
women who leave abusive husbands, and among some ethnic groups, 
a woman's family may help her seek recourse from the family of 
the abusive husband.  Rape and other violent crimes against 
women are infrequent.

     Children

The Government has given only limited attention to children's 
rights.  However, there was discussion of the subject in the 
National Assembly in 1993, and the Assembly gave the Government 
authority to sign the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the 
Child.

     Indigenous People

Several thousand indigenous Pygmies live in the south of 
Gabon.  They exist largely independent of formal authorities, 
keeping their own traditions in independent communities.  In 
theory, they have the same civil rights as any citizen, 
although in practice they are often the victims of local 
discriminatory practices.  They have virtually no ability to 
participate in decisions affecting their lands, culture, 
traditions, and the allocation of natural resources.  When the 
Government instituted its policy of "regroupment," 
consolidating several smaller villages into larger ones along 
main roads, the Pygmies remained in their outlying villages, 
mostly without electricity, water, or state schools.  There are 
no government programs specifically targeted to assist Pygmies.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Credible reports indicate that favoritism in hiring and 
promotion based on ethnicity occurs on a fairly frequent basis 
in both the public and private sectors.  However, this occurs 
back and forth across ethnic lines, and neither the Government 
nor any single ethnic group is able to exercise a systematic 
denial of privilege or right to any other group.  Some ethnic 
groups maintain that President Bongo carefully allocates key 
cabinet and government positions to members of his ethnic 
group, and they complain that there is no legislative check on 
certain appointments, such as to the Supreme Court.  However, 
individuals from all ethnic groups occupy prominent positions 
within the Government, the military, and the private sector.  

     People with Disabilities

There are no laws prohibiting discrimination against persons 
with disabilities, and there are no laws providing for 
accessibility for the disabled.  In August members of the 
National Association of Handicapped People in Gabon (ANPHG) 
staged a protest at the Presidential Palace, demanding 
accessible housing and revision of their social security 
benefits.  In response to the ANPHG protests, the President's 
wife initiated a campaign to provide wheelchairs to the 
handicapped.


Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association  

The 1991 Constitution recognizes the right of citizens to form 
associations of all kinds, including trade and labor unions.  
According to the Constitution, there are no restrictions on 
this right of association.  Unions, in order to be officially 
recognized, must register with the Government.  A 1992 law also 
allowed public employees to organize, although their right to 
strike is limited in areas pertaining to public safety.  Under 
single-party rule, all workers were required to belong to a 
single union, the Gabonese Labor Confederation (COSYGA), to 
which they contributed a mandatory 0.4 percent of their 
salaries.  In 1992 a new law allowed for the creation of unions 
independent from COSYGA and abolished the mandatory 
contribution.

Among some 70,000 union workers in the modern wage sector, 
COSYGA continued to represent about 30,000, according to its 
statistics.  COSYGA is strongest in the construction, commerce, 
and state-owned sectors, while CGSL is strong among teachers 
and foreign workers.  The petroleum sector is also strongly 
unionized by smaller independent unions.

A revision of the Labor Code, which dates back to 1978, has 
been repeatedly delayed.  It would grant government recognition 
to the new Gabonese Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CGSL).  
The revised code had still not been officially published by 
year's end, but the CGSL has been recruiting members and 
organizing actively for nearly 2 years.  The CGSL has greatly 
expanded membership and representation for foreign workers in 
Gabon, who make up at least 30 percent of the work force.  The 
CGSL has also been active in attempting to organize among civil 
servants, but labor leaders report that civil servants have 
remained reluctant to do so.

According to the Labor Code, unions remain free from Government 
and political interference, although they are permitted to 
associate themselves as their members choose.  During the 
presidential campaign, CGSL openly associated itself with the 
opposition (although not with a specific party), while COSYGA 
supported President Bongo.

Under the 1978 Code, strikes are illegal if they occur before 
compulsory arbitration takes place.  The International Labor 
Organization and the CGSL have strongly criticized this 
provision, and the revised code holds provisions to change it.  
The Government has announced, but has not yet carried through, 
its intentions to liberalize the right of workers to strike in 
the new code.  In practice, the Government has allowed labor to 
strike without fear of arrest or other reprisal since the 
official liberalization that followed the National Conference 
in 1990.

The Labor Code prohibits direct government action against 
strikers who have abided by the compulsory arbitration 
provision.  It also prohibits the Government from pressing 
charges against a group as a whole for criminal activities on 
the part of an person during a strike.  In 1993 the Government 
did not punish strikers, including those who did not follow the 
provisions of the Labor Code.  There were a number of short, 
wildcat strikes in 1993:  Postal and Telecommunication workers 
struck occasionally, including on one occasion in support of 
Radio Liberte, which at the time was being jammed (see Section 
2.a.); and university teachers also went on strike in June, 
refusing to give exams until the Government granted them a 
greater role in governing the National University.  These 
strikes all took place with no government reprisals against 
strikers.

Unions and confederations are free to affiliate with and 
participate in international labor bodies.  The COSYGA is 
affiliated only with the Organization of African Trade Union 
Unity, although it participates with other international 
bodies.  Even though the Government still had not granted CGSL 
legal recognition in 1993, CGSL has affiliated with the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Code provides for the right of collective 
bargaining.  Labor and management meet to negotiate 
differences, with a representative from the Ministry of Labor 
present only as an observer.  When an accord is reached, the 
ministry representative is called upon to draft an agreement 
document and witness the parties' signatures.  Unions in the 
petroleum sector and banking sectors, for example, have 
effectively engaged collective bargaining provisions to reach 
agreements with employers.

Unions in each sector of the economy negotiate with management 
without government interference over specific pay scales, 
working conditions, and benefits, and the agreements reached 
apply to nonunion workers.  While there are no specific laws 
which prohibit antiunion discrimination, decisions against 
employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are handled 
on a case by case basis; the law does not specifically require 
employers to reinstate workers, but compensation, as decided by 
the court, must be made.  In one case in 1993, a woman who was 
fired for becoming pregnant twice in a 2-year period won a suit 
against her employer.  She informed the court that she did not 
wish to be reinstated, and a different form of compensation was 
stipulated.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law and not practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children below the age of 16 may not work without the express 
consent of the Ministries of Labor, Education, and Public 
Health.  These Ministries rigorously enforce this law, and few 
people in the modern wage sector are under the age of 18.  In 
rural areas, however, children work in agriculture and other 
traditional activities.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The 1978 Labor Code and the 1982 General Convention of Labor 
govern working conditions and benefits for all sectors and 
provide broad protection to workers.  Each year representatives 
of labor, management, and government meet to examine economic 
and labor conditions; they recommend a minimum wage rate within 
government guidelines to the President, who then issues an 
annual decree.  Currently, the minimum wage for unskilled 
workers is adequate to support workers and their families.  The 
minimum monthly wage is $219 (FCFA 64,000).

Gabon's oil and mineral wealth and its developed modern wage 
sector allow foreign and local firms to pay competitive wages 
and grant generous fringe benefits, including paid maternity 
leave and 6 weeks of paid annual vacation.  Union leaders have 
stated that in many cases adequate conditions of work exist.  

The standard legal workweek mandated by the Labor Code is 40 
hours, and work over 40 hours a week must be compensated by 
overtime.  A minimum rest period of 48 consecutive hours must 
be allowed.

The Ministry of Health establishes occupational health and 
safety standards, but does not enforce these standards 
effectively.  Application of labor standards varies greatly 
depending on company policy, and government regulation is 
largely ineffective.  

Conditions for foreigner workers in Gabon, both documented and 
undocumented, are often especially harsh.  Employers often 
stipulate longer hours and allow poorer working conditions, and 
they often hire only on a short-term basis in order to avoid 
paying social security taxes or benefits.  Increased labor 
activities and worker education programs have improved some 
situations, but abuses still exist. 


[end of document]

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Return to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
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