Gabon celebrated its first Commonwealth Day marred by mourning over the sinking of the Esther Miracle

The authorities celebrated the first Commonwealth Day in Gabon on Monday 13 March with the victims of the Esther Miracle shipwreck in mind © Facebook/LMAM

A member of the Commonwealth since 25 June 2022, Gabon celebrated its first « Commonwealth Day » on Monday 13 March. An event placed under the high patronage of President Ali Bongo Ondimba which gave rise to various events in the Gabonese capital despite the emotion and sadness linked to the sinking a few days ago of the Esther Miracle which caused numerous victims.

The Commonwealth, an organisation mainly gathering English-speaking countries, celebrated its traditional annual day on Monday 13 March 2023. For the first time, the event also took place in Libreville. Indeed, it was on 25 June 2022, on the occasion of the 26th Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kigali, Rwanda, that Gabon became a member of this organisation, which now has 56 member countries.

While in London (England), the event is usually marked by an interfaith service at Westminster Abbey in which the King or Queen, as head of the Commonwealth, as well as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the High Commissioners of the Member States usually take part, in Gabon the day was marked by three highlights.

The first was devoted to the raising of the Commonwealth colours at the Palais Léon Mba, seat of the National Assembly, and to a photo exhibition and a video projection relating to Gabon’s march towards the Commonwealth.

The second highlight took place at the Senate headquarters where a large public exhibition was opened, followed by a conference-debate on the theme: « Gabon’s place in the Commonwealth ».

The third part of this sequence was an information and awareness caravan on the Commonwealth in some of the capital’s schools.

By joining the Commonwealth on 25 June 2022, Gabon and Togo became the last nations without historical ties to the United Kingdom to join the English-speaking club now headed by King Charles III. President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the main architect of this membership, explained this step by Gabon’s desire to « open up and join another multicultural area that is also a source of growth; with new opportunities for our young people, for our companies through the diplomatic and economic contribution that Gabon will be able to draw from it ».