Gabonese President Ali Ben Bongo (file photo)
Gabonese President Ali Ben Bongo (file photo)

Gabon's new president is backing judicial reforms to shorten pre-trial detention and improve the prosecution of child abuse. VOA West Africa Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

Ali Ben Bongo won election two months ago as the ruling party's candidate to succeed his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon for nearly 42 years.

But the new President Bongo is already challenging some of the ways of the past, calling for a more equitable distribution of oil revenues in a country with one of Africa's highest per-capita incomes where the United Nations estimates 70 percent of people still live in poverty.

President Bongo is promising to nearly double Gabon's minimum wage and build 5,000 new homes a year. He says he wants his government to be more responsive to the needs of its people and is backing changes to the justice system to improve public confidence and the quality of prosecution.

President Bongo says he supports reforms proposed by the chief of Gabon's highest court to better guarantee equitable justice for all citizens. He says there should be an entirely separate set of judges to address issues of child abuse. President Bongo says pre-trial detention is far too long as a result of a sluggish judicial system that he says must become more efficient.

The president endorsed the judicial reforms at a meeting with reporters where he also called for greater professionalism in Gabonese media.

President Bongo says he is not happy with the confusion between a political commitment and a respect for ethics that still exists in Gabon's media. While the president says he recognizes the professionalism of some print and broadcast journalists, he says the process of establishing a communications school in Gabon must be accelerated to raise the level of professionalism in journalism as has been done in the judiciary.

Emmanuel Ondo Metogo is president of Gabon's National Communications Council.

Metogo urged President Bongo to fund more digital broadcasting training. He says the keys to responsible growth in private sector media are independence, diversity, and public access to reliable information.