As acting President by virtue of being Speaker of the House, Rose Rogombé gained a reputation within Gabon of being an “iron lady.” Although it may be simple to view her as an automatic pick for the presidential vacuum, 90 from 99 senators voted for her to assume presidency with a constitutional check that she may not run for President but rather manages the process leading to Elections.
After her qualifications as a lawyer, Rogombe held positions as a magistrate, state prosecutor and ultimately speaker of the House. Her tenure as secretary of state advancing women’s rights remains a portfolio where change was not fully effected. Gabon as a country has adopted transformative legislature regarding gender empowerment however, limitations towards women still exist such as holding certain ranks in the army exist over and above the dread among women of reporting sexual abuse to the authorities.
Arguably, had women’s rights been adequately championed, there would have been reporting, trial and punishment of perpetrators of this form of rights abuse. The continued neglect and sustained narrative that follows the country, of there being law but no enforcement is testament of insufficient action in advancing equality.
Without losing her mandate as speaker of the house and interim President, Rose Rogombé managed to maintain calm in a volatile Gabon in the period of Presidential mourning. During that time, key institutions had to be guarded by the armed forces based on fears of an anticipated civil unrest given the manifold Presidential aspirants.
It is plausible to assert that her iron lady appellation was entrenched in this time of social uncertainty and such placed her among the few women Heads of State in Africa.