For those of you who are not well-versed in Gabonese political history (or who are wishing that I had already posted a map of Africa on this blog so you could figure out where the country is actually located), Gabon has had the same president for the past 40 years now: Omar Bongo surpassed Fidel Castro last year to become the longest ruling president of any country. Bongo has actually been around since Lyndon Johnson was in office, which is kind of trippy when you think about it.
President Bongo has been sick in a hospital in Barcelona, Spain, for the past few weeks, and this morning it was widely reported that he died last night. For some reason, however, the Gabonese press and those who control it felt the need to cover this up; As if we don't have the internet, people! In fact, a Gabonese minister reported that he personally, along with 5 other ministers, saw the president alive this morning. (Insert Liz picturing, out loud, all these ministers standing around Bongo's hospital bed poking him to see if they could ilicit a response.) Other reports said he was planning to come back to the capital tomorrow. Finally, some time this afternoon, the Gabonese press admitted what we all already knew: Bongo is, in fact, deceased. I am mildly relieved that they didn't attempt to keep up this charade for much longer, but I think the attempted cover-up reflects how much fear there is here about the potential consequences of a power vacuum.
There seems to be some debate about who will succeed Bongo. Evidently the military favors one of his sons to take his place, but there is some chatter that France doesn't agree. Clearly there are many puppets on many strings in this whole charade. In the meantime, however, the country has just closed its borders, and as of tonight there is an 8PM curfew. This means that my wild nightlife here is clearly going to be stifled for awhile.
I would just like to take a moment to point out the extreme unlikeliness that I would choose one of the most peaceful, stable countries in Africa to go live in for three months, right at the moment when its president of 40 years passes away with no clear successor.....But wait, I beat the odds and I DID do that!
I actually feel very safe here at the Schweitzer Hospital. Furthermore, someone told us today that if anything were to happen (i.e., if the country were to descend into some kind of civil unrest) that the French military would send some troops down here from the capital to protect us. (Prompting Liz to comment that the French have never been known for their military prowess....) Seriously, though, the chickens and the roosters here don't seem to have noticed the curfew, nor the border lockdown, and neither have I.
I usually cut straight to the worst case scenario, because I figure that once you have gone there in your mind, nothing can phase you. In my worst case scenario today, we get stuck on the hospital compound, and when our food supply runs out, we get to eat the roosters that won't stop crowing outside our window. It turns out, the worst case scenario is REALLY not that bad....