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Gabon’s Bongo says poll rivals have ‘no chance’

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Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba gestures as he speaks to journalists during an interview in Libreville, on August 12, 2016. Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba assured today during an exclusive interview with AFP journalists, that his opponents "are afraid" to participate to the presidential elections held on August 27, 2016, because, according to him, "they have no chance to win".  / AFP PHOTO / STEVE JORDAN

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba gestures as he speaks to journalists during an interview in Libreville, on August 12, 2016.<br />Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba assured today during an exclusive interview with AFP journalists, that his opponents “are afraid” to participate to the presidential elections held on August 27, 2016, because, according to him, “they have no chance to win”. / AFP PHOTO / STEVE JORDAN

President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon wrote off Friday his political opponents’ chances in an upcoming presidential election, saying they were “afraid” because they had “no chance of winning”.

In exclusive comments to AFP, Bongo also dismissed allegations he was not Gabonese, but Nigerian — which would make him ineligible to stand for reelection later this month.

“I’m in the situation of being an outgoing president with a track record and they prefer to come and get me on ridiculous things,” he said, referring to opposition claims he has falsified his birth certificate.

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Speaking on the eve of campaigning officially getting underway for the August 27 elections, Bongo said: “That proves they are afraid of going to the polls.”

“They fear the candidate Ali Bongo because he, after all, has a satisfactory track record… and they have no chance of winning,” he said, speaking to reporters at the presidential palace.

Bongo has faced allegations that he is not Gabonese, but Nigerian, and that he was adopted by his father Omar, who was president from 1967 until his death in 2009.

Bongo called the allegation “ridiculous” and brushed aside the supposed existence of several birth certificates as “fantasies”.

Rival Leon Paul Ngoulakia, one of 13 people challenging the president in the election, has said Bongo should take a DNA test to prove his parentage and eligibility to run.

On July 25, the constitutional court rejected an appeal against the eligibility of Bongo, who came to power in a disputed election following his father’s death.

Bongo, 57, who is running for a second seven-year term, is due Saturday to hold an electoral meeting in Akanda, a town adjoining the capital Libreville.

Earlier this month, Bongo warned of possible unrest during the election which he said was the “strategy” of the opposition.

The representative of the EU election observation mission also called on politicians to “do everything” to “avoid any violence or any form of provocation”.

In the lead-up to the elections, the security forces have had a greater presence in the capital, with road checkpoints at night.

Libreville saw two incidents last month when police dispersed small gatherings of opponents.

– Newfound oil wealth –
Two of his main rivals, Jean Ping and Guy Nzouba Ndama, are also due to rally supporters.

Ping, 74, a former head of the Commission of the African Union and ex-brother-in-law of Ali Bongo, previously worked as a diplomat and has pledged to stay in power for only one term if he wins.

Nzouba Ndama, 70, spent around two decades as head of the national assembly and has support of several local dignitaries who are disenchanted with the policies of the governing party.

A third credible candidate is former prime minister Casimir Oye Mba, who has faced criticism for his 2009 last-minute withdrawal from the race to support Bongo.

Bongo was elected for a first term in a disputed 2009 vote following the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had steered Gabon from 1967 and was described by critics as a corrupt despot.

This rule saw the country tap its newfound oil wealth that led to a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations.

However most of it has not trickled down to ordinary people. Critics accuse the Bongo family of usurping the country’s riches and stifling democracy.


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