Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 09:56 UK

Sarkozy in Gabon election praise

Ali Ben Bongo
Ali Ben Bongo says his opponents should take their dispute to court

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sent a letter of congratulations to Ali Ben Bongo on his victory in Gabon's controversial presidential election.

Opponents of Mr Bongo, whose father, Omar, ruled the nation for four decades, have called for a recount and say the election was rigged.

Clashes broke out at the announcement of the election result last week, with French property targeted.

Some activists say France, the former colonial power, helped rig the vote.

The French news agency AFP says Gabon officials showed journalists Mr Sarkozy's letter.

"Following the announcement by the constitutional court of the presidential election results, I am happy to address to you my congratulations and wishes of success in fulfilling the responsibilities that await you," it said.

The French embassy in London confirmed to the BBC that a letter of congratulations had been sent by Mr Sarkozy.

He went on to assure Gabon's president-elect of France's wish for good relations between the two countries.


It comes as 16 of Mr Bongo's defeated rivals held a press conference to call for a recount of the votes.

Even if we were to count the vote we would come to the same result
Laure Gondjout
Information minister

Former Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong, acting as spokesman for the group, said there had been "huge manipulation" of the results.

"Very scandalous rigging of ballot boxes, as well as incomprehensive swelling of voting lists have contributed to falsify the vote in favour of PDG [the ruling party]," he said.

Among the defeated candidates at the press conference was Pierre Mamboundou, who led protests against the result and was reported to have fled into hiding after being injured in the unrest.

Mr Bongo said the defeated candidates should take their disputes to court.

Gabon map

And Information Minister Laure Gondjout insisted the vote was free and fair, saying she was "flabbergasted" to hear that the other candidates were disputing the result.

"It's just a way for them to explain or justify to the voters that they were defeated," she told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"Even if we were to count the vote we would come to the same result."

There were several outbreaks of violence after the election result was announced - particularly in the second city of Port Gentil, where the French consulate was set alight.

But the BBC's Linel Kwatsi, in Gabon, says the situation in both Port Gentil and the capital, Libreville, has now calmed down.

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