Gabon’s actions to fight corruption and protect the environment were the focus of discussions today between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leader of the African nation as he began the final leg of the United Nations chief’s third official trip to the continent over the past month.
Mr. Ban and President Ali Bongo Ondimba also discussed the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon’s border dispute with Equatorial Guinea and its contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The Secretary-General acknowledged Gabon’s strides towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters.
The world body’s chief also told Mr. Bongo that he welcomed the calm during Gabon’s recent legislative elections, encouraging the Government to maintain its dialogue with the opposition in the run-up to next year’s round of polls.
Also today, the Secretary-General addressed the country’s National Assembly, where he hailed Gabon for what he called its “exceptional” stability.
On the MDGs, he said the country is showing that the Goals are within reach, with child mortality having declined in the past two decades and progress having been made on improving maternal health.
“Some may call this a miracle, but there is nothing miraculous about it,” he said. “This is the result of good policy and strong leadership.”
Mr. Ban also noted that the country’s “ethnic diversity has never been the trigger for tension or war.”
He paid tribute to Gabon’s leadership in regional dialogue and reconciliation, pointing out its role in facilitating a peace accord between the Government and rebels in the CAR.
In an address to civil society representatives, the Secretary-General pointed out that Gabon has not experienced conflict or ethnic strife since it gained independence nearly 50 years ago.
“Last year’s peaceful transition and this month’s legislative elections are [a] testament to the maturity of your democratic process,” he said, underscoring the important of civil society in promoting such advances.
Mr. Ban also visited a protection centre, home to children who have been trafficked or abused, in the capital, Libreville, where he called for an end to impunity for crimes against children.
“The people responsible must be found, prosecuted and convicted,” he underlined.
He called on all parts of society – including the Government, the private sector, civil society and the police – to play their part to ensure that laws protecting children are implemented. “A society is judged by its treatment of its weakest and most vulnerable members.”
Mr. Ban arrived in Gabon after an official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In two other recent trips to Africa he has visited Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Burundi, Cameroon, Benin and Sierra Leone.