, Libreville, Gabon, Sep 29 – Gabon’s opposition leader on Thursday called for sanctions against regime members he accused of electoral fraud and scorned any idea cooperating with re-elected head of state Ali Bongo.
Jean Ping, a former foreign minister who according to official results lost narrowly to Bongo in the August 27 vote, said Gabon had been the victim of a “military-electoral coup d’etat.”
He called for “targeted sanctions against those responsible,” including a freeze on assets held abroad and a ban on foreign travel.
Bongo was installed on Tuesday for his second term as president, three days after the Constitutional Court rejected Ping’s demand for a recount.
In his first act after the court’s announcement, Bongo had called for “all political leaders” to engage in a “dialogue” to steer the country out of crisis.
His new prime minister, Emmanuel Ngondet, also tended an apparent olive branch on Thursday, saying negotiations were still under way for forming an “inclusive government” that would be unveiled on Sunday.
But Ping, speaking at a press conference, angrily slapped down any notion of cooperation.
– ‘Imposter’ –
He reiterated he did not recognise Bongo as president, lashing him as “an imposter calling for dialogue.”
“What dialogue?” he asked.
“This is someone who has been disavowed by the people and defeated at the ballot box, who is asking the person from whom he stole the election to come and dialogue with him… We won’t go to any dialogue staged by this imposter.”
He announced that October 6 would be set as a “national day of remembrance” for those killed in the post-election violence.
A former French colony in central-western Africa, Gabon has vast assets in oil, minerals and timber, and has a per-capita national income that is far above the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
But a third of the population of 1.8 million still live below the poverty line, the result, say specialists, of chronic inequality and corruption.
Critics lay much of the blame at the door of the Bongo family, which has ruled the country for decades.
Ali Bongo, 57, took over from his father Omar Bongo, who ruled for 41 years until his death in 2009.
Violence erupted on August 31 after Bongo was declared the winner by a wafer-thin margin, prompting Ping, 75, to allege fraud and declare himself “president-elect.”
Demonstrators set parliament ablaze and clashed with police, who made a thousand arrests.
Opposition figures say more than 50 people were killed. The government has given a toll of three dead.
Fears of bloodshed surged once more after the Constitutional Court last Saturday rejected Ping’s demand for a recount and instead boosted Bongo’s margin of victory from 6,000 to 11,000 votes.
– ‘Open an investigation’ –
In The Hague, the International Criminal Court said Thursday it had opened a “preliminary examination” of the post-poll violence to determine if there was enough evidence for a probe into possible crimes against humanity.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the Gabonese government had referred the violence to her office on September 21, asking it “to open an investigation without delay.”
A letter of referral signed by Gabonese Justice Minister Denise Mekamne Edzidzie accuses Ping and his supporters of incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity.
It highlights a speech which Ping gave during his electoral campaign, in which he allegedly called on his supporters to “get rid of the cockroaches.”
Bensouda cautioned that a “preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information” to see if there was enough evidence for a full inquiry.
Ping, for his part, called on the ICC and Amnesty International “to shed all possible light on the murders, disappearances and breaches of human rights.”
Bongo’s declared victory has received a cool reception from the African Union and the United Nations, while the European Union said there had been voting “anomalies” which had not been rectified by the court.