Heavy se­cu­rity in tense Gabon af­ter Bongo re-elec­tion val­i­dated

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LI­BRE­VILLE — Li­bre­ville’s nearly empty streets were un­der the watch of a heavy po­lice and mil­i­tary pres­ence on Satur­day af­ter Gabon’s top court up­held Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo’s re-elec­tion in bit­terly dis­puted polls.

Se­cu­rity force check­points dot­ted routes into the cap­i­tal’s cen­tre, he­li­copters hov­ered over­head and elite troops pro­tected the pres­i­den­tial palace, but no vi­o­lence had been re­ported.

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court, while par­tially chang­ing the re­sults of the close Au­gust 27 vote, said Bongo main­tained a lead over his for­mer ally-turne­doppo­nent Jean Ping, at a tele­vised pub­lic hear­ing overnight on Fri­day to Satur­day.

Bongo took 50.66 per­cent of the vote against 47.24 per­cent for Ping, the court ruled, putting his mar­gin at 11 000 — higher than the less than 6 000 ini­tially an­nounced.

Con­cern has been grow­ing that a rul­ing in favour of Bongo (57) could spark more of the un­rest Gabon saw af­ter the pres­i­dent was an­nounced to have won re-elec­tion.

In his first com­ments af­ter the rul­ing, Bongo ap­pealed for “po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue” with the op­po­si­tion to steer the coun­try out of the cri­sis trig­gered by the an­nounce­ment of his vic­tory.

“I in­tend to very quickly bring to­gether the con­di­tions for a po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue open to all those who wish (to take part),” Bongo said in a speech broad­cast on tele­vi­sion.

He called on po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and de­feated can­di­dates to work with him “guided by the will to place the greater good of the na­tion above our in­di­vid­ual and par­ti­san in­ter­ests.”

De­feated chal­lenger Ping, a ca­reer diplo­mat and a for­mer top of­fi­cial at the African Union, filed a le­gal chal­lenge ear­lier this month, de­mand­ing a re­count.

“No one can dis­pute the fact that Jean Ping has roundly won this elec­tion,” his spokesman Jean Gas­pard Ntoutoume Ayi said af­ter the court an­nounce­ment.

Ping had warned the coun­try could face se­ri­ous in­sta­bil­ity if the court re­jected his ap­peal for a re­count.

But the gov­ern­ment has told Ping that he would be held re­spon­si­ble if fresh vi­o­lence breaks out, and could find him­self ar­rested if he crosses “the red line”.

Ping and his sup­port­ers hoped to end the Bongo fam­ily’s 50-year grip on power in this oil-rich coun­try of 1.8 mil­lion peo­ple.

Ping (73) has made clear he be­lieved Bongo had the court in his pocket, re­fer­ring to it as “the Tower of Pisa that al­ways leans the same way”.

The na­tion erupted in protest af­ter Bongo was de­clared the win­ner fol­low­ing an elec­tion mired in al­le­ga­tions of fraud.

Dur­ing the en­su­ing chaos, demon­stra­tors set fire to the par­lia­ment and clashed vi­o­lently with po­lice, who ar­rested around a thou­sand peo­ple.

Op­po­si­tion fig­ures say “more than 50” peo­ple were killed in the vi­o­lence, but the gov­ern­ment gave a fig­ure of three dead.

In his le­gal chal­lenge, Ping asked for a re­count in Haut-Ogooue prov­ince, a strong­hold of the Bongo fam­ily, where the pres­i­dent won more than 95 per­cent of the votes and turnout was de­clared to be more than 99 per­cent.

EU ob­servers have said there was a “clear anom­aly” in the prov­ince’s re­sults. — AFP

Ali Bongo

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.