Gabon 'outraged' by rumours over AU chief
New York - Gabon on Monday expressed "outrage" over reports that former foreign minister Jean Ping was withdrawing from his campaign to seek a new term as head of the African Union commission.
Ping is in competition with South Africa's Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, an ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, for the post which will be decided at an AU summit next week.
Diplomats say there is now intense lobbying for the influential post of chairperson of the AU commission which Ping has held since 2008. Gabon's UN envoy Nelson Messone did not give the source of the rumours which he slammed at a New York press conference.
Gabon has been "really outraged by rumours and reports in some African and international media suggesting that Gabon was not fully behind its candidate that Gabon did not support its candidate", Messone said.
The reports had had "misleadingly" reported that Ping was to withdraw his candidacy, the envoy added, condemning the reports as "absolutely false and unfounded."
Messone said the government was "very shocked by other rumours suggesting that funding for the candidate's campaign was done by a non-African country".
"Such innuendo is false and we think it is very derogatory to the Gabonese people and the African continent," said the envoy.
Ping has the "wholesome support" of President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the whole country, the envoy added. Gabon provided the "necessary support" so that Ping could visit more than a dozen African countries to lobby votes in December, the ambassador said.
The 54 heads of state and government of the AU will hold a secret ballot at a summit in Addis Ababa on January 28-29 to decide whether Ping gets a new term.
Dlamini-Zuma, a former foreign minister, is backed by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC). Ping has major support from French-speaking central and west African nations. He obtained the necessary two thirds majority in the first round of voting in 2008.