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Gabon opposition leaders free as Ping following French, UN appeals
Gabonese opposition leaders were able to leave their headquarters on Friday evening, following calls for their release by France and the UN. Jean Ping, the challenger to incumbent Ali Bongo, declared himself the "elected president" at a late-night press conference with the 27 activists who had been trapped in the party's ransacked offices.
At least five people have been killed in riots that followed the official announcement that Bongo had been reelected and the government has rejected Ping's call for a recount, arguing that there is no provision in Gabonese law for such a move.
"The whole world knows who is president of the republic, it's me, Jean Ping," the former African Union Commission chair and president of the UN General Assembly said.
"As elected president, I'm obviously very worried by the situation in our country, which is heading towards generalised chaos."
Ping was speaking alongside 27 leading members of his campaign who had been trapped inside the headquarters since Thursday morning.
The building was stormed and traces of bullets and blood were noted by journalists after the event.
France, UN appeal for release
Following their appeal, via their Paris-based lawyer, Eric Moutet, for international support, UN central Africa representative Abdoulaye Bathily and French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for them to be allowed "freedom of movement" because their situation constituted a "humanitarian risk".
Calling for a "gesture of appeasement", Ayrault said that France was in contact with "all the parties, including our African and international partners, so as to find a speedy solution for this crisis" and repeated France's call for a "transparent and impartial examination of the results of the presidential election so that the people's will may be respected".
"They're out; I think the pressure has paid off," Moutet said, adding that he hoped that "the hundreds of others who have been arrested" would be freed soon.