The African Union announced on Tuesday it would send a delegation led by Chad’s President Idriss Deby, one of Africa’s longest-ruling presidents to Gabon to help resolve a post-election standoff between President Ali Bongo and his main opposition rival that triggered deadly riots last week.
“It is an urgent matter and I expect the high-level delegation to be dispatched very soon. Chad’s President Idriss Deby, one of Africa’s longest-ruling presidents who currently holds the chair of the pan-African body, would likely to lead the talks” African Union spokesman Jacob Enoh Eben said on Tuesday.
Bongo, whose family has ruled the Central African OPEC member country for half a century, won the August 27th election by fewer than 5,000 votes.
The opposition leader Jean Ping says the election was stolen and that turnout from Haut-Ogooue had been inflated to give Bongo victory. He also accused security forces of using violence against his supporters.
Opposition anger at Bongo’s re-election boiled over into riots in the capital, Libreville, and other towns, killing six people, according to the government. The opposition says the death toll is even much higher.
Ping, a former diplomat and African Union Commission chairman, told Paris-based television news channel France24 on Tuesday that 50 to 100 people had been killed since last week. His claim could not be independently verified.
“We accept all mediation efforts,” Ping said of the AU delegation, while calling for calm. “We want democracy and peace to triumph.”
Order is said to have been restored in Libreville on Tuesday and shopkeepers and government workers returned to their jobs despite Ping’s earlier call for a mass walk-out.
Parliament also resumed on Tuesday, with lawmakers gathering in the Senate building looking somber. The National Assembly was set alight and badly damaged during last week’s protests.
As in other African countries led by men who have held onto power for decades, Gabon’s opposition has consistently called for a change from the Bongo leadership.
Gabon authorities have so far dismissed calls from the opposition and Western powers including former colonial ruler France to publish more detailed results of the August polls, prompting the justice minister to resign on Monday.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls suggested on Tuesday that a recount of the vote would be wise. He also called on Gabonese authorities to help locate around 15 French nationals it says are missing.
Up to 1,100 people were arrested last week during the unrest, according to the interior minister, although many have since been released.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said on Tuesday they were following the situation in Gabon with “increased concern”.
The European Union mission that observed the Gabon’s election said on Tuesday it had found anomalies in results from the southeast region of Haut-Ogooue where President Ali Bongo won 95.46 percent of the votes cast.