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Calm Urged in Gabon


Burnt out cars are seen outside a government building, following an election protest in Libreville, Gabon, Sept. 1, 2016.

Gabon’s Constitutional Court has confirmed that incumbent Ali Bongo has won re-election for President.

Gabon’s Constitutional Court has confirmed that incumbent Ali Bongo has won re-election for President.

Gabon held a Presidential election in late August, pitting sitting President Ali Bongo against former Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean Ping. The election was tight and both sides claimed victory, but on August 31st, the Electoral Commission announced that President Bongo had won the election with 49.8 percent of the vote against 48.2 percent, an advantage of fewer than 6,000 votes. Opposition representatives on the electoral commission refused to confirm the results, and abstained from the subsequent confirmation vote.

Following the announcement, Mr. Ping’s camp declared the elections process had been rigged, and thousands of protesters took to the streets in Libreville. Over the next few days the protests continued, and in the end, at least five people died in clashes with security forces, over one thousand were arrested, the city suffered some damage and looting, and the National Assembly building was set on fire.

Jean Ping eventually filed a legal challenge and demanded a recount, based on the results from President Bongo’s home province of Haut-Ogooue, which showed a voter turnout of 99 percent, as opposed to 56 percent nationwide. Over 95 percent of votes cast in Haut-Ogooue were for Mr. Bongo.

And thus the issue landed before the Constitutional Court, which had until September 23rd to make a decision. Later that day, the Court ruled in favor of incumbent Ali Bongo.

Libreville, and indeed Gabon as a whole, was calm in anticipation of the Constitutional Court’s decision, and the hope is that the calm continues, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield while attending the UN General Assembly in New York:

“I’m hopeful that the people of Gabon will see the court’s decision as acceptable, as transparent, and that the country will start the process of healing itself, and rebuilding.”

The United States hopes that both Mr. Bongo and Mr. Ping accept the decision of the court, and that they embrace a process that will lead to stability in Gabon.

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