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By UN, Gabon Pitches Ping for AU & Denies French Funding, Canapes Served

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- As the race for the top African Union post heats up, Gabonese Ambassador Nelson Messone held an event Monday night across from the UN, to promote a second term for Gabon's Jean Ping. The event featured, among others, the Permanent Representatives to the UN of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon, as well as shrimp and guacamole canapes. Video here, and below.

  Only four questions were asked, and Inner City Press asked three of them: whether the Ambassadors in attendance are in support of Ping, whether Gabon believes the post is reserved for a smaller state than South Africa, and whether Gabon's differences with South Africa around Eritrea sanctions in late 2011 were in any way related to the race.

  On the question of support, Messone said "it's obvious," Ping is "from the Central African region." Tommo Monthe, Cameroon's Ambassador, told Inner City Press his presence means "strong support" for Ping. Equatorial Guinea's Ambassador exchanged a letter with Messone.

  On the other questions, Messone diplomatically said that "the wisdom of African heads of state always prevails" and he sees now reasons why it won't this time, "whether there are one, two or three candidates." He decried rumors that "one country outside of Africa" was funding Ping's race, saying that only Gabon is funding it.

(c) UN Photo
Jean Ping & Ban Ki-moon: latter got 2d term, why not former?

  Afterward, Messone declined to confirm that the "one country" he referred to is France, but said that the only rule is that countries outside of Africa can't fund the race. But, one wag wondered, can they directly or indirectly condition support for their former colonies in Africa to support their preferred candidate? Watch this site.

Footnote: after Messone finished, Inner City Press was approached by one hapless European diplomat, who said he'd come based on the mention in the invitation of a review of Gabon's two years on the Security Council. "But that's not what he talked about," the diplomat complained. And so it goes.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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