Gabon is a republic with a presidential form of government dominated by the Gabonese Democratic Party and headed by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has held power since 1967. Bongo Ondimba was declared winner of the 2016 presidential election. Observers noted numerous irregularities, including a questionable vote count in Bongo Ondimba’s home province. The government forcibly dispersed violent demonstrations that followed the election. In the 2018 legislative elections, the Gabonese Democratic Party won 100 of 143 National Assembly seats. The African Union observer mission did not comment on whether the elections were free and fair but noted some irregularities. Some opposition parties boycotted the elections; however, fewer did so than in the 2011 legislative elections.
The National Police Forces, under the Ministry of Interior, and the National Gendarmerie, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for law enforcement and public security. Elements of the armed forces and the Republican Guard, an elite unit that protects the president under his direct authority, sometimes performed internal security functions. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful killings by the government; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by government authorities and the country’s peacekeepers deployed to United Nations missions; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; political prisoners or detainees; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including the existence of criminal libel laws; interference with freedom of peaceful assembly and serious restrictions on freedom of movement because of COVID-19 mitigation measures; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic or intimate partner violence; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.
The government took some steps to identify, investigate, and prosecute officials and punish those convicted of human rights abuses or corruption; however, impunity remained a problem.