Africa  

Gabon president accuses EU poll observers of bias

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba gestures as he speaks to journalists during an interview in Libreville, on August 12, 2016. Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba assured today during an exclusive interview with AFP journalists, that his opponents "are afraid" to participate to the presidential elections held on August 27, 2016, because, according to him, "they have no chance to win". / AFP PHOTO / STEVE JORDAN

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba / AFP PHOTO / STEVE JORDAN

Gabon’s embattled President Ali Bongo on Wednesday accused EU observers who criticised his country’s election of overlooking irregularities in the camp of his rival, Jean Ping.

On Tuesday, the observer team reported a “clear anomaly” in voting in Haut-Ogooue province, Bongo’s heartland.

“I would also have liked them to have noted some anomalies in the fiefdom of Mr Ping,” Bongo told France’s RTL radio.

“If we’re raising anomalies, we have to be clear, balanced and raise all the anomalies that have been noted.”

Bongo, who has been in power since 2009, claimed victory in the August 27 poll by a wafer-thin margin of some 6,000 votes.

The opposition has bitterly contested the vote in Haut-Ogooue, where official results showed turnout at more than 99 percent with 95 percent voting for Bongo.

In their analysis, the EU election monitors said: “The number of non-voters, as well as blank and disqualified votes, reveals a clear anomaly in the final results in Haut-Ogooue.”

Bongo has ducked calls for a recount, saying that only the Constitutional Court could order a repeat count.

“I cannot violate the (electoral) law,” he insisted.

– Calls for a recount –
Bongo is under increasing pressure at home and abroad after Justice Minister Seraphin Moundounga resigned on Monday demanding a recount “polling station by polling station.”

Manuel Valls, prime minister of former colonial power France, has said it would be “wise” to do a recount.

Ping has called for a general strike but this appeal seems to have gone largely unheeded.

Several people have been killed in violence triggered by the vote in the oil-rich central African nation, ruled by the Bongo family since 1967.

According to an AFP count, the post-election chaos has claimed at least seven lives.

Gabonese authorities, however, said Monday the toll was three killed and 105 wounded, with the government saying some deaths had previously been incorrectly attributed to the clashes.

Some 800 people have been arrested in recent days in the capital, with the authorities accusing them of looting, while lawyers say they are being held in “deplorable” conditions.

Gabon, a country roughly the size of Britain but with a population of 1.8 million, has only known three presidents since it ceased to be a French colony in 1960.

One third of its population lives in poverty, even though the country boasts one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes — $8,300 annually — thanks to oil revenue.

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