, UNITED NATIONS, Sep 1 – The UN Security Council is deeply concerned by the violence in Gabon following President Ali Bongo’s narrow election victory and is calling for calm, the council president said Thursday.
The council discussed the crisis at France’s request and heard a report during a closed-door meeting from UN envoy for central Africa Abdoulaye Bathily, who is working to defuse tensions.
Council members “called upon all candidates, their supporters, political parties and other actors to remain calm, refrain from violence or other provocations and to resolve any eventual disputes through established constitutional and legal mechanisms,” said New Zealand’s Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, who holds the council presidency this month.
The council expressed its “deep concern” and stressed the “importance of a transparent and impartial process” for the elections, he added.
Three people were killed and around 1,000 arrested during rioting overnight after Bongo was declared the winner of the election by a razor-thin margin over rival Jean Ping.
The European Union and France have called for a transparent verification of the election results.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre earlier said the council should “reiterate the critical importance of a procedure guaranteeing the transparency of the results of the election.”
During the meeting, Bathily told the council that he was “hopeful” that tensions could be eased in Gabon, which has been ruled by the Bongo family for almost 50 years.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the immediate release of political detainees, and said the United Nations supports calls for a verification of the election results.
“The Gabonese people deserve a credible electoral process,” he said.
Ban said he was “deeply concerned and saddened” by the violence, “in particular the arson attacks and disproportionate response of security agencies that has led to unfortunate loss of life and property.”
The UN chief called on the government to immediately restore communications, especially the internet, SMS and independent radio and television.
Bongo won victory with 49.8 percent of the vote, while Ping picked up 48.23 percent, resulting in a gap of fewer than 6,000 votes, according to provisional results.