‘Dallas’ Plays Out In Gabon’s Top Court As Political Crisis Deepens

‘Dallas’ Plays Out In Gabon’s Top Court As Political Crisis Deepens

By Celia Lebur – From Africa Review

The head of Gabon’s top court, which has the pivotal task of ruling if President Ali Bongo’s contested re-election is valid, is a former beauty queen whose affair with the leader’s father produced two children.

Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo is in the limelight in this oil-rich Central African nation where President Bongo’s victory is being challenged by his former brother-in-law, veteran diplomat Jean Ping.

“Here it’s Dallas,” the American ambassador Cynthia Akuetteh said, according to French media reports, referring to a wildly popular US television soap opera revolving around a filthy rich and feuding Texan oil family.

For over 20 years the glamorous 61-year-old has headed the nine-member Constitutional Court, dubbed the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” by the opposition for allegedly kowtowing to the Bongo regime.

Political elite

But she is just one character in the tightly interlaced cast that makes up Gabon’s political elite.

Mr Ping held a succession of prestigious posts and was one of the longest-serving ministers of late President Omar Bongo, father of Ali Bongo.

But upon President Omar Bongo’s death in 2009, Mr Ping turned against Ali Bongo, who had stepped into the presidency.

The half-Chinese Paris-educated Ping had two children with Bongo’s eldest daughter, but later wed an Ivorian.

The result

Mr Ping last week took his challenge of the result of the August 27 polls to Gabon’s top court.

After riots broke out following the August 31 announcement that President Bongo had been re-elected by fewer than 6,000 votes, he in turn claimed Mr Ping had encouraged the violence.

Mr Ping has asked for a recount in the ruling family’s stronghold of Haut-Ogooue Province, where President Bongo won more than 95 per cent of votes on a reported turnout of more than 99 per cent.

Mr Ping’s supporters say that 17 people were killed at his party headquarters alone in a wave of post-electoral violence, but the Interior ministry says the toll is three dead.

Read more at Africa Review