Gabon justice minister resigns over Bongo re-election

Seraphin Moundounga resigns over government’s failure to organise recount as President Bongo’s win touches off riots.

Gabonese opposition candidate Jean Ping greets supporters outside his campaign headquarters after proclaiming that he won the presidential election in Libreville
Post-election chaos has claimed at least six lives in the oil-rich central African nation [Reuters]

Gabon’s justice minister has resigned in protest over the re-election of President Ali Bongo, which has prompted accusations of fraud and street riots that have killed at least six people.

Bongo has claimed victory by a slender margin of around 6,000 votes, but opposition leader Jean Ping has called a general strike in response to what he says is a fraudulent re-election.

Seraphin Moundounga resigned on Monday over the government’s failure to organise a recount.

“Having noticed that the government was not responding to concerns about the need for peace and for the consolidation of democracy, I decided to … step down from my functions as a member of government,” Moundounga told Radio France Internationale.

READ MORE: Gabon opposition leader demands a recount

France had joined the EU and the US in calling for the results to be published according to each polling station but, until now, had stopped short of demanding a recount.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from the capital, Libreville, said that government officials tried to downplay Moundounga’s resignation.

“They say that the former minister, of all people, should know …  that the law says that aggrieved party … needs to go to the Constitutional Court, file a petition, and only the Constitutional Court can order a recount.” 

Our correspondent added, however, that the resignation was “very embarassing to the government” and “a significant blow” to Bongo.

“This was a powerful minister who held a very powerful docket,” Soi said.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in recent days in the capital Libreville [AFP]

Ping, a veteran diplomat, called for the general strike to force “the tyrant” out.

“We cannot accept that our people will be killed like animals without reacting,” Ping wrote on Facebook.

“I propose to cease all activity and begin a general strike. We must use all means of resistance to topple this tyrant and believe me, he is on the verge of falling.”

Post-election violence

Ping’s appeal seems to have gone largely unheeded in the capital, Libreville, where banks and shops have reopened after being shut for days owing to post-election violence, and taxis have returned to the streets.

The AFP news agency says post-election chaos has claimed at least six lives in Gabon, ruled by the Bongo family since 1967.

Gabonese authorities, however, say the death toll stands at three, besides 105 wounded, and that some deaths were previously attributed incorrectly to the clashes.

Around 800 people have been arrested in recent days in Libreville accused of looting.

Meanwhile, a high-level African Union delegation, including heads of state, is ready to be dispatched to Libreville to help calm the situation, AU chairman and Chad President Idriss Deby said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies