The scam of the state’s funds and accusations of corruption against the government in the early years of the ’80s led to violent popular protests. The rebellion extended right into the ranks of police. In 1982, it conducted a demonstration calling for wage increases and the withdrawal of French advisers from the country. The protest actions were brutally abolished by the country’s intelligence service, which officially goes by the name of the “Documentation Center”
According to countryaah, the government also campaigned against the National Renewal Movement (MORENA), which consisted of intellectuals, students and nationalist politicians. The movement was accused of stealing 30 tons of weapons in October 1982 when the attacks against the Bongo family’s property and French military installations took off. At least 28 senior members of MORENA were sentenced to 15 years in prison. The French Socialist Party criticized the judgments, which created a tense relationship between Bongo and French President Mitterrand.
However, the episode did not prevent Bongo from visiting France in March 1984. The president’s visit to the French Elysee mansion sparked just as many protests as the French decision to build a nuclear power plant in Gabon.
In late 1989, major upheavals took place in Eastern Europe, coinciding with demands by the opposition in Gabon for greater democratic opening. The demand triggered violent street fights, which in terms of popular participation were far more extensive than the protests MORENA had triggered in the early 1980s. It forced the president to change the constitution, abolish the one-party system in favor of a multi-party system, and ease the press censorship. At the same time, he invited a number of opposition leaders to step into the government.
Immediate social excitement subsided, but in May 1990, President of Gabon’s Progressive Party, Joseph Redjambe, was murdered at a Libreville hotel. He was one of the central leaders of the opposition and the murder triggered a violent reaction against the government. The entire Port-Gentil region was in a state of rebellion for 10 days, Paris had to evacuate 5,000 Frenchmen from the area and the government had to put in the presidential guard to restore order. According to information confirmed by Amnesty International, the riot cost 6 lives and 100 were injured.
After the tranquility was restored, all of the country’s political and social sectors met in June at a national conference where it was decided to hold free presidential elections. The conference was a victory for the opposition. He succeeded in forcing the president to compromise on multi-party elections, but Bongo also won a victory when he succeeded in accelerating the 1992 election – which the opposition had wished – to the end of 1990. That way he could serve the entire the apparatus he had built up during his 20 years in power, while the opposition, which had been suppressed for decades, had poor time to organize. The result, therefore, was that the opposition split into elections. In the September 1990 election, Bongo’s party, Gabon’s Democratic Party (PDG), gained a majority in the National Assembly.
Through 1991, the country was affected by a series of further political and social unrest. In parallel, the economic crisis worsened. The stabilization policy that had been implemented since September 90 – based on IMF guidelines – had not produced results, and did not continue to create high expectations for the population.