June 19, 2011
Gabon rejects abuses in mass gold mine expulsions
LIBREVILLE, Gabon — The Gabon government on Wednesday rejected allegations of deaths and torture in its expulsion of hundreds of illegal workers from a gold panning site, but said it would back an inquiry.
A Cameroon official said Tuesday at least two people died when about 2,300 were driven from the irregular mine in the Minkebe National Park in northern Gabon and into southern Cameroon in the first two weeks of June.
"Contrary to the statements of some parties, there was no torture or deaths," the Gabon government said in a statement published in media Wednesday.
"The cabinet is not opposed to an international investigation into the facts of what happened," it added.
Cameroon officials registered 2,371 people expelled from Gabon between June 2 and 13, and more were on the way, a government official at Djoum in southern Cameroon told AFP Tuesday.
Most were Cameroonians and others were from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal, said the official, Jean Lazare Ndongo Ndongo.
"We have two known deaths. There was a person who was tortured in Gabon who died after this torture. A woman gave birth in the bush. The baby died," he said.
Cameroon media reported that four people had died.
Gabon authorities say about 5,000 people, mostly foreigners without proper entry papers, had set up at Minkebe where they were involved in illegal gold panning.
The forest site had also become a hub of criminal activities, including smuggling, prostitution, illegal migration, and drugs and small arms trafficking, Gabon Defence Minister Rufin Ondzounga said Tuesday.
"The evacuation of Minkebe took place in more than satisfactory humanitarian conditions," the minister said. "No act of violence, no abuse was committed against those who were expelled."
In its statement Wednesday, the government said the foreign nationals involved in the illegal mining should have been subject to criminal investigation.
"However they were simply returned to the borders in respect of their human rights," it said.
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Article source AFP