Release of Detained Gabonese Unionists After Tense Standoff

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In a significant development, eight members of the Gabonese Energy and Water Company (SEEG) union, detained for three days by the Military Intelligence Directorate, were released following a high-stakes confrontation. The arrest unfolded on Monday after a vigorous protest by the unionists demanding payment of their 13th-month salary, coupled with a threat to disrupt water and electricity services nationwide.

Upon their release, it was evident that all eight unionists, including two women, had undergone head shaving. Early in the morning, they were transferred from the Military Intelligence Directorate to the Baraka Camp, the stronghold of the armored regiment. Positioned on the parade ground, they participated in the flag-raising ceremony, compelled to sing the national anthem and stand at attention.

Following the flag ceremony, they were ushered into a meeting room for discussions with the management of their company and the Vice President of the Republic, Joseph Owando Berre. Exhausted from three days of detention and visibly humiliated, the unionists requested a postponement of the meeting.

Livan Ntsame Mve, Vice President of one of the two employee unions, stated, “If our heads were shaved, the authorities must apprehend all those responsible for SEEG’s current predicament, and each one of them should be held accountable for their actions.”

The unionists face accusations of having unlawfully detained their employers and causing damage to company property. However, no formal charges have been filed against them.

The unions assert that unless the SEEG’s management engages in negotiations regarding the contested 13th-month payment, they will proceed with their planned strike on December 21. The situation underscores the delicate balance between labor demands, corporate negotiations, and the government’s role in mediating such disputes.

Soukaina Sghir

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