In Gabon Opposition chief slams election court ruling

"I will not retreat. As president clearly elected by the Gabonese people, I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty," Ping said.

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Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping (L) flanked by opponents Casimir Oye Mba (2L) and Zacharie Myboto (C) speaks to supporters during a press conference in Libreville play

Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping (L) flanked by opponents Casimir Oye Mba (2L) and Zacharie Myboto (C) speaks to supporters during a press conference in Libreville

(AFP)
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Opposition leader Jean Ping on Saturday lashed a decision by Gabon's top court to validate President Ali Bongo's re-election, as police and troops patrolled the deserted streets of Libreville to prevent a new flareup of violence.

Ping accused the Constitutional Court of "bias (and) miscarriage of justice" following a ruling early Saturday that upheld Bongo's disputed victory in the August 27 presidential election.

"I will not retreat. As president clearly elected by the Gabonese people, I remain at your side to defend your vote and your sovereignty," Ping said.

Concern has been growing that a ruling in favour of Bongo, in power since the death of his long-ruling father Omar Bongo in 2009, could spark more of the deadly unrest Gabon saw after the president's re-election was announced.

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

People demonstrate against the confirmation by Gabon's constitutional court of President Ali Bongo's victory in the presidential election play

People demonstrate against the confirmation by Gabon's constitutional court of President Ali Bongo's victory in the presidential election

(AFP)

The Constitutional Court confirmed Bongo as victor and partially amended the results, saying his lead over Ping had risen from a wafer-thin 6,000, as was first announced, to 11,000 votes.

Libreville's nearly empty streets were under the watch of a heavy police and military presence on Saturday.

Checkpoints dotted routes into the capital's centre, helicopters hovered overhead and elite troops protected the presidential palace, but there were no reports of any violence.

In his first comments after the ruling, Bongo appealed for "political dialogue" with the opposition to steer Gabon out of crisis.

"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 televised speech.

He called on Ping, an ally-turned-rival, to work with him, "guided by the will to place the greater good of the nation above our individual and partisan interests."

Foreign Minister Emmanuel Isozet Ngondet used his address at the UN in New York on Saturday to call for international support to restore unity.

"Preserving peace and stability in the country is the challenge of the moment," he said.

International concern

Western powers have expressed concern over the election's conduct and the opposition's treatment in its aftermath.

Gabonese security forces are seen deployed next to a campaign poster of President Ali Bongo in Libreville ahead of the Constitutional Court's announcement play

Gabonese security forces are seen deployed next to a campaign poster of President Ali Bongo in Libreville ahead of the Constitutional Court's announcement

(AFP/File)

The US embassy in Gabon called for the Constitutional Court to release details of its deliberations "to allow for transparency".

President of the Gabonese Constitutional Court Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo (C) takes her seat ahead of a hearing at the Constitutional Court in Libreville play

President of the Gabonese Constitutional Court Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo (C) takes her seat ahead of a hearing at the Constitutional Court in Libreville

(AFP/File)

"We are troubled by what appear to be arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters, many of whom fear for their safety as well as that of their family members. We are also troubled by the continued internet shutdown," it said in a statement.

The EU said its election observers had had only limited access to witness the poll, in breach of the agreement the bloc signed with Gabon's government.

"The confidence of the Gabonese people in the integrity of the electoral process may, legitimately, have been put in doubt," it said in a statement.

"The deep divisions demand a political response that will guarantee the country's stability and unity."

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the court's decision had failed to remove "all doubts" surrounding the poll result.

He called on all those who continued to contest the result to "refrain from violence and to pursue their claims in ways that do not affect the country's peace and wellbeing."

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

But the government has warned Ping he will be held responsible if fresh violence breaks out, and could find himself arrested if he crosses "the red line".

'Clear anomaly'

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

Ping 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 was declared to have won more than 95 percent of the vote, with turnout at more than 99 percent.

EU observers have said there was a "clear anomaly" in the province's results.

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