France urged not to support Gabon leader
Activists call on Paris to stop backing Ali Bongo Ondimba, as opposition refuses to take part in electoral commission.
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2011 12:03
Fillon, who is on a tour of Africa, said criticisms made regarding France's role in the continent are 'outdated' [AFP] 

Gabonese rights groups and trade unions have called on Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, to withdraw support for Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon's president.

Thirteen organisations condemned France's backing for the president in a co-signed public letter on Saturday, saying Bongo had plunged the country "into unspeakable desolation" and caused "the general collapse of essential infrastructure".

"France, the country of human rights and of the citizens of the 1789 [French Revolution] must no longer support this criminal regime, this disgraceful dictatorship," the letter said.

It accsued the Bongo family of appropriating government resources, alleging that "corruption has touched all spheres of the regime".

The letter coincided with Fillon's arrival in Libreville, the Gabonese capital, where he was to meet with Bongo.

The Bongo administration and the French share a strategic relationship, as key military and economic partners.

Fillon, who visited Ivory Coast on Friday, said the criticisms made regarding France's role in Africa, including its alleged support for suspect regimes, are "outdated".

Participation suspended

Bongo has been facing internal dissent from various civil groups since having had talks with them in April, after the government asked the constitutional court for permission to postpone elections until next year.

The court refused to grant permission, and the government announced it would therefore have to comply with the law and hold the elections on time.

On Friday, 13 opposition parties signed a joint statement announcing their decision to suspend the participation of all opposition members in the national permanent autonomous electoral commission.

The group said it wanted to "sternly condemn ... the executive for going back on a unanimous decision for the upcoming legislative elections to be organised transparently by introducing biometric voter registration".

"This isn't a boycott yet but with this decision we are blocking the electoral process," an opposition leader told the AFP news agency.

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