#COVID19: Gabon Minister Defies Presidential Order On Vaccination, Compels Staff To Take Jab

Some businesses and institutions have also started using COVID-19 vaccination cards to admit people into their premises.

Contrary to the directive by President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon that citizens should not be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccines, the country’s Minister of Water and Forestry, Chinese-born Lee White, has imposed mandatory vaccination on all the staff of his ministry.

The obligatory vaccination was contained in a circular made public by the Secretary General of the ministry, Michel Ngueba Koumba Wednesday July 28.

“All missions to the interior of the country are henceforth conditioned on the presentation of the vaccination card against the COVID-19,” the circular stated.

This decision is a direct contrast to the declaration by President Ali Bongo Ondimba who in April said that “I want to remind everybody that vaccination is not obligatory, but strongly recommended by the national and international health authorities.”

Since the institution of a COVID-19 vaccination card in Gabon, most national entities and private businesses as well as international conglomerates operating in the country seem to have swept the presidential instructions under the mat.

Total Gabon was the first international conglomerate to announce that access to its industrial sites would henceforth be subject to the presentation of the vaccination card against the COVID-19.

Several hotels and restaurants have since followed suit by demanding that their workers and customers acquire the anti-COVID-19 vaccination card before being granted access into their facilities.

The Gabonese Patronal Confederation (CPG) has recently instructed its member enterprises to impose the obligatory vaccination of their workers against COVID-19 otherwise they forfeit some of their allowances and in more severe cases, be retrenched.

Lee White’s position has raised many questions in the country.

“Is Lee White above the head of state in this country? Will compulsory vaccination be imposed on a segment of the population or on all the national community? Is the Minister of Water and Forestry carrying out an ordered mission to impose obligatory anti-Covid vaccination?” a civil society activist who opted for anonymity asked in Libreville on Wednesday.

All eyes are now turned towards the Prime Minister’s Office to see whether the head of government would turn a blind eye to such a contradiction of instructions from the head of state.

Figures made available by the Pilot Committee for the Follow-up of Action Against the Coronavirus Pandemic indicate that Gabon currently counts 68 active COVID-19 cases throughout the national territory, with no active cases in three of the country’s provinces and 10 cases in four provinces, 17 cases in Ogooue-Maritime province and 37 cases in Estuaire province.

“The figures of the pilot committee are a testimony. Why force people to get vaccinated whereas they can affect weekly testing?” one civil society activist asked.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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