Pope prays for victims of Gabon clashes

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis has prayed for victims of violent protests in the west African nation of Gabon, calling attention to what he described as a “grave political crisis” in the former French colony.

In remarks to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Francis on Sunday also encouraged the Gabonese people, particularly Catholics, to be “builders of peace while respecting legality, dialogue and brotherhood.”

Gabon was marked by violent protests after the results of an Aug. 27 presidential election were announced.

The opposition candidate mounted a legal challenge, accusing the incumbent leader, Ali Bongo Ondimba, of fraud.

The opposition says as many as 100 people have died in the protests, while the government has put the toll at three.

Francis says he supports an appeal by Gabon’s bishops for all sides to renounce violence.

Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping on Thursday appealed to the country’s highest court Thursday in an attempt to have a wafer-thin presidential election loss overturned.

Ping insists he was the winner of the August 27 presidential election — which gave incumbent Ali Bongo a narrow win — and lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court, his campaign team said.

“Jean Ping has a petition with the Constitutional Court requesting a review… of the results of the August 27, 2016, presidential election in Haut-Ogooue province,” Bongo’s family fiefdom, said a member of his legal team, Jean-Remy Batsantsa.

Batsantsa said the appeal was for a “recount of votes in this province, polling station by polling station, through comparison of records held by the Cenap (the national electoral commission) and all parties.

“We are asking for the Court to determine that there are serious anomalies” in a count which saw Bongo declared the winner by a whisker, said Batsantsa, echoing a finding by EU observer head Maryia Gabriel.

“An analysis of the number of non-voters as well as blank and disqualified votes reveals a clear anomaly in the final results in Haut-Ogooue,” an EU election observer mission said in a statement Tuesday.

Bongo accused some members of the mission of overstepping its mandate.

And the foreign minister said “many inconsistencies” had been noted in the observers’ behaviour.

“We have the impression that the observer mission wanted to become a control mission,” he said.

Batsantsa said that a compilation of returns from Haut-Ogooue made it clear that “there is no way that Ali Bongo can win this election.”

Bongo himself has said he will contest a number of results attributed to his rival.

The court’s nine judges now have 15 days to hand down a ruling on the appeal.

Haut-Ogooue is a Bongo stronghold where the incumbent won more than 95 percent of the vote on an official turnout of more than 99 percent.

Source: Kake.com, additional report by Daily Mail

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