LIBREVILLE, March 11 Gabonese President Ali
Bongo has offered to hold talks with opposition parties in an
apparent bid to ease tensions over his contested re-election
last year, but his main political rival swiftly rejected the
call for dialogue.
Responding to a presidency statement issued late on Friday,
opposition leader Jean Ping branded the proposal for talks
starting on March 28 as a "masquerade" and said he would not
Ping, a former African Union chairman, accuses Bongo of
cheating in order to win re-election in the August 2016 election
and of using security forces to violently suppress protests in
the weeks that followed.
Gabon's Constitutional Court rejected his allegations of
vote-rigging, but international observers have also criticised
the poll and the European Parliament in February called the
results "extremely doubtful" though stopped short of imposing
Bongo first came to power in 2009 after the death of his
long-ruling father Omar Bongo.
Unlike some of its neighbours, the central African oil
producer has little history of internal violence since
independence from France in 1960, partly due to the latter's
unwavering support for Omar Bongo in exchange for privileged
Barring post-electoral violence that killed several people
in the immediate aftermath of poll results in September, the
recent tensions in the country have been fairly contained.
Strikes have affected the country's 220,000 barrel per day
crude output in recent weeks, however, and the government sent
security forces to intervene.
(Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Writing by Emma Farge;
Editing by Helen Popper)