The Activist Force the Rulers to Pay the Price

Boursier Tchibinda travels through the towns of his country notebook in hand to encourage the incorporation of its inhabitants to its revolutionary digital project on citizen participation.

Boursier Tchibinda defines himself as “a citizen of modern times”. This journalist and blogger from Gabon has become one of the leaders in the promotion of digital citizenship in Central Africa, in order to transfer the protagonism of political decisions to people. Now Tchibinda has returned to the field, to travel paths and villages notebook in hand to begin with the awareness of the communities.

More than two years ago, this young Gabonese conceived 241Citoyen, a project to “turn over the system of control of the management of local collectivities and control, for example, where the taxes of citizens go”. Tchibinda imagined it as a digital platform that aimed to “involve local populations in the definition of community projects: public sources, bus stops, electricity … The proposal is loaded on the platform and users vote on these proposals on line “. The idea was supported by several international organizations such as CFI (the French media development agency)

Now they are approaching the reality of the people: “The digital activity has been on a Facebook page where we post the information. We have directed efforts to reconnect with the population on the ground and explain the social dimension of the project. The rate of mobile coverage is good and many people have access to the Internet, but the reality is that its use is still limited, “says Tchibinda.

Tchibinda argues his conviction about the need for this work in small remote cities and towns. “In Libreville, the capital, you have access to all basic services without problem. But as you move away there are places where you may have trouble finding a doctor, a dispensary, a hospital equipped; there are schools in which some professors have left … “.

For more than two years, the 241Citoyen project has gone to meet local communities. Boursier Tchibinda identifies the problems and transmits them to the local offices, in what he calls the “citizen consultations”. He admits that he has encountered obstacles, but also progress: “We have organized for the first time the OpenData Conference in Gabon, to lay the foundations for the opening of data.” There is not always awareness of transparency and accountability of the fate of public money: “We have to start with education in the use of ICT to these public representatives. Then come the principles of accountability of the management entrusted to them. ”

The project takes place in a complex context, that of a country with good macroeconomic data, by the exploitation of oil, gold or manganese; but with an unequal distribution of wealth. “In a creative way, the rappers said rich country, poor people. We have many resources but we do not generate wealth. The creation of value is not only economic, but artistic, social, journalistic … “,  The political context is not simpler. The Bongo govern Gabon for more than half a century, first Omar Bongo, for more than four decades. On his death, in 2009, an election was held that his son, Ali Bongo, president until today, won. “For a long time,” explains the promoter of the participation project, “in Gabon the movements were linked to political parties and were very personalistic. But we are in a moment of change. ”

Tchibinda explains in this climate of tension: “There are few social movements because they identify with the opposition and the revolt.” It is a complicated environment to promote a project that invites citizens to take a leading role in political life and narrows the margin of politicians: “Gabon is a country with minimal democratic but needs to reaffirm, redevelop and from which the citizenry has to reappropriate. ”

“A project like this,” says Tchibinda, “in a country where democratic indicators are in red is a threat. It is a threat to tell the local authorities to report on the budget, that citizens put pressure on agreed local development proposals. Everything that surrounds the project must be well explained because the authorities will try to control it “.

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