By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
Voicing deep concerns about the unfolding electoral crisis in Gabon, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for restraint and the upholding of international standards of human rights there –and expressed UN support for a transparent verification of its recent presidential election results.
“I am deeply concerned and saddened about the crisis in the Gabonese Republic provoked by the electoral crisis, in particular the arson attacks and disproportionate response of security agencies that has led to unfortunate loss of life and property,” the UN chief said in a statement.
“It is essential that all political actors and the people of the Gabonese Republic exercise restraint and overcome their differences by peaceful means in the interest of national unity,” he added. “The UN supports the call of regional and international observers for a transparent verification of election results.”
The UN chief has been closely following developments in the African nation in the wake of its recent and closely-contested presidential election. Earlier this week, he spoke with the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, and the presidential candidate of the Démocratie Nouvelle party, Jean Ping, in separate telephone calls.
Clashes have broken out between protesters and security forces after President Bongo was declared the winner with the release of official provisional results yesterday, reportedly winning by a margin of less than 6,000 votes. According to media reports, hundreds of people have been arrested and at least two people have been killed.
“I understand the frustration of the Gabonese people, and especially the youth, who aspire to better living conditions and democratic reforms,” he continued. “The new government will have to take into account this message and the UN will be there to support these efforts.”
Mr. Ban also called on the government to immediately restore communications – especially the Internet, SMS and the independent radio and television – as well for the country’s security forces to exercise the utmost restraint and to uphold international standards of human rights, and for the authorities to release political detainees immediately and unconditionally.
“Those responsible for acts or incitement to violence will be held accountable,” he said. “I call on the responsible institutions to deal swiftly, transparently and fairly with all complaints related to the presidential election. The Gabonese people deserve a credible electoral process.”
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