Gabon presidential candidate in police standoff

(File, AFP)
(File, AFP)

Libreville - Former top African Union official Jean Ping, who is running in Gabon's upcoming presidential elections, on Friday shunned a police summons, denouncing it as a bid to oust him from the race.

Ping, a former AU commission chief, said the summons was unfounded and a manoeuvre to keep him out of the public eye.

He had been called to the judicial police - an investigative unit under the orders of the judiciary - at 10:00, but chose not to attend.

Police had deployed in large numbers outside the judicial building, where several dozen Ping supporters had turned out to show their support.

"I was summoned without due cause," said Ping.

"Who exactly is behind the summons and why? I don't know... but when you summon someone to the judicial police on a Friday, it's to put him in jail straight away."

The presidential election, expected in August or October, will pit incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba, who is seeking a second term, against Ping and several other well-known figures including parliamentary leader Guy Nzouba Ndama and former prime minister Raymond Ndong Sima.

In May, the government accused Ping of seeking to foment civil war after he made statements allegedly calling on supporters to fight "to the death" and talked about a war "to get rid of the cockroaches".

On Friday, government spokesperson Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze confirmed that the state would file a complaint against Ping over those remarks.

Ping accused the government on May 21 of using "Machiavellian" judicial means to try to force him out of the presidential race.

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