Libreville is a city of broken promises – like Gabon’s poor start
SITTING on the “window” side of the ferry, which had the part that covered it on the side partially opened, seemed like a good idea to me instead of sitting on the isle.
I would get to see the sea and our destination as we approached it without anyone blocking my view. But what I didn’t consider was that the waves the ferry hit, as it sped from Libreville’s port to the island Pointe Denis, would come straight at me.
The water didn’t directly hit me but the arm I rested on the plank was wet by the time we reached our destination.
The island, with its tranquil surroundings and clean ocean, was a welcome change from the hectic schedule that comes with covering the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the dirty sea that’s just 200m away from our hotel. It was a good opportunity to recharge the batteries before flying to Port-Gentil for last night’s Group D matches and then return to Libreville today for the second round of games in Group A.
I managed to swim in the warm ocean of Pointe Denis as we relaxed on day three of the tournament. On the same day, Herve Renard’s attempt at winning a third Afcon with three different countries didn’t drown but rather took a knock as Morocco lost to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Being on that island felt like I was in another country. There was nothing there about the Afcon or anything that had to do with civilisation, even though they had a cellphone network tower and wi-fi. At Pointe Denis, you can be away from the real world but the real world is a click away.
News of the unrest in Gabon probably doesn’t touch these parts, though. It’s only when you’re making your way back to Libreville that it reality hits you. There are a number of unfinished buildings in the city centre of Libreville, including one that, three years ago, was meant to be a world-class port. The artist’s impression that surrounds that plot show what a wonderful thing it would have been. But that project was abandoned because of financial reasons like the Stade Omar Bonga that President Ali Bongo Ondimba promised to build in honour of his late father. It was to host the final and Group A matches but never got to be finished despite millions being spent on it.
Keeping promises isn’t something the current president seems to do well, though. He promised to build 5 000 houses each year when he took power seven years ago. Eight years later, he has built just over 800 houses according to our translator.
Libreville is a city of broken promises. The Panthers didn’t help to change that with their disappointing draw in the opening match against Guinea-Bissau.
There was huge promise leading up to this match that they would wipe the floor with the minnows. Togo also refused to budge against African champions Ivory Coast while Zimbabwe almost stunned Algeria. It’s as if there is some kind of a revolution on the pitch – perhaps like the one on the streets here that was rudely quashed.
Gabon’s poor start means the party is on hold. The public viewing area in Libreville looked dead on Monday. They sat there on their chairs as if they were at a meeting rather than watching a football match.