Gabon op­po­si­tion claims vic­tory Bongo’s camp says the call ‘danger­ous and il­le­gal’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LIBREVILLE — Gabon’s main op­po­si­tion can­di­date Jean Ping has claimed vic­tory in week­end pres­i­den­tial polls, but in­cum­bent Ali Bongo’s camp said the call was “danger­ous and il­le­gal” be­fore of­fi­cial re­sults.

The of­fi­cial tally of votes will not be pub­lished un­til to­day and some vot­ers voiced fears of a re­peat of the vi­o­lence seen af­ter a dis­puted 2009 elec­tion.

“I have been elected. I am wait­ing for the out­go­ing pres­i­dent to call to con­grat­u­late me,” Ping (73) said on Sun­day in the cap­i­tal Libreville, prompt­ing ju­bi­la­tion from hun­dreds of his sup­port­ers.

Bongo’s spokesper­son how­ever said the an­nounce­ment was “danger­ous”, while his In­te­rior Min­is­ter Pa­come Moubelet Boubeya warned it was “il­le­gal to de­clare re­sults be­fore the rel­e­vant author­i­ties”.

“We re­spect the law . . . so we are wait­ing calmly for Ce­nap (the na­tional elec­tion com­mis­sion) to an­nounce the re­sults of the elec­tion,” Bongo told sup­port­ers in his first public re­marks since Satur­day’s poll.

Bongo (57) has been in power since the 2009 elec­tion held af­ter the death of his father, Omar, who ruled Gabon for 41 years.

A ca­reer diplo­mat, Ping, like the cur­rent pres­i­dent, worked for many years in Omar Bongo’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. He has also served as head of the African Union and pres­i­dent of the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

“You have foiled the con­gen­i­tal fraud of this regime, which we are fi­nally go­ing to see off,” Ping told his sup­port­ers on Sun­day.

Ping met France’s am­bas­sador shortly af­ter­wards, his team said.

They also said that he had beaten Bongo 60-to-40 in the 60 per­cent of bal­lots that had been counted. It was im­pos­si­ble to im­me­di­ately ver­ify the claim.

Both fron­trun­ners had al­ready pre­dicted vic­tory and ac­cused the other of cheat­ing.

Shortly af­ter polling ended on Satur­day, the pres­i­dent’s spokesper­son said: “Bongo will win . . . we are al­ready on our way to a sec­ond man­date.”

The head of the Pan-African Democ­racy Ob­ser­va­tory, an NGO based in Togo, played down the sig­nif­i­cance of Ping’s dec­la­ra­tion.

“We should not be sur­prised if one or the other de­clares vic­tory. It’s all part of the game,” Djovi Gally said.

Fear­ing a re­peat of the vi­o­lence that fol­lowed Bongo’s vic­tory in 2009, many res­i­dents stocked up on food and stayed in­doors.

The streets of Libreville were de­serted with shops and stalls that are usu­ally open on Sun­days shut­tered.

The em­bassy of for­mer colo­nial power France warned its cit­i­zens not to travel within the coun­try un­less ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary and to keep them­selves in­formed.

France’s rul­ing So­cial­ist Party mean­while is­sued a state­ment say­ing a change of govern­ment af­ter decades of Bongo rule “would be a sign of good demo­cratic health”.

In Libreville, a man who gave his name as Honore said: “We want to get the re­sults soon.

“We’ll see how the can­di­dates re­act. I hope it won’t be like last time.”

Back then, sev­eral peo­ple were killed in the clashes, build­ings were looted and the French con­sulate in Port Gen­til, which saw the worst of the vi­o­lence, was torched.

Ping’s cam­paign co­or­di­na­tor, Jean Gas­pard Ntoutoume Ayi, claimed that Bongo would at­tempt to re­tain power by force. “Ali Bongo has de­cided to ig­nore the elec­tion and to stay in power,” said Ayi.

“This is the sit­u­a­tion which we are en­ter­ing: the elec­tion is over, the coup d’etat has started.”

Bongo’s camp has dis­missed such claims as “to­tally crazy”.

Em­manuel Edzang, a voter in Libreville, said the cap­i­tal had the feel­ing of a “pow­der keg”.

Un­til shortly be­fore polling day, Bongo was the clear favourite, with the op­po­si­tion split by sev­eral prom­i­nent politi­cians vy­ing for the top job.

But ear­lier this month, the main chal­lengers pulled out and said they would all back Ping.

Both can­di­dates have promised to break with the past.

Faced with re­peated charges of nepo­tism, Bongo has long in­sisted he owes his pres­i­dency to merit and years of govern­ment ser­vice.

His ex­trav­a­gant cam­paign made much of the slo­gan “Let’s change to­gether”, and of roads and hos­pi­tals built dur­ing his first term.

One third of Gabon’s pop­u­la­tion lives in poverty, de­spite the coun­try boast­ing one of Africa’s high­est per capita in­comes at $8 300 thanks to pump­ing 200 000 bar­rels of oil a day. — AFP

Pre­to­ria High School for Girls’ pupils can wear braids, corn­rows or dread­locks, but only if they are a max­i­mum of 10mm in di­am­e­ter.

Abubakar Shekau

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.