Three days after Gabon's first presidential election since Omar Bongo's death, the Autonomous Electoral Commission was meant to release results Wednesday, but it failed to meet its deadlines. Three candidates have claimed victory.
AFP - The results of Gabon's presidential election were delayed until Thursday morning as backers of the main candidates waited outside the offices of the Electoral Commission in a tense atmosphere.
Leading candidates Ali Bongo, former defence minister and son of the late veteran leader Omar Bongo Ondimba, main opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou and former interior minister Andre Mba Obame have all claimed victory in Sunday's poll.
At least 1,500 people, mostly supporters of Mamboundou and Mba Obame, gathered in the capital early Wednesday afternoon to await the promised results in front of the Autonomous Electoral Commission but it failed to meet its deadlines.
The Commission's meeting started very late and was then suspended at 11:00 pm (2200 GMT), Gabon radio and television reported.
Reports from the 2,800 polling stations had not yet been examined by the members of the Commission representing the ruling group, the opposition and the government, when the meeting was suspended.
After the reports had been studied and approved the results would then be sent to the interior ministry which would announce them, hopefully on Thursday morning.
There were fears that the long wait might result in violence, especially since there had already been an incident early Wednesday when masked men machine-gunned an outside broadcast unit of the Go Africa television station owned by Mba Obame.
Apart from the party faithful, Libreville was almost deserted early Thursday with very little traffic and few pedestrians, while anti-riot police and troops were deployed all round the capital in small groups.
As tension built, all three mobile phone operators suspended text messaging services without explanation.
"Five masked men in a 4X4 machine-gunned the Go Africa mobile satellite station," in a western suburb of Libreville, said Franck Nguema, general manager of the channel.
"The assault lasted between 30 and 45 seconds at around 3:00 am (0200 GMT). The engine was running, they left immediately," added a Go Africa technician, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Now we have blank screens, we can't transmit any more."
There was no immediate comment from the government on the attack, which was confirmed by one of the tenants of the building housing the offices of Go Africa and private flats, who asked not to be identified.
Go Africa broadcasts by satellite to 20 African countries. It is owned by Andre Mba Obame, as is TV Plus, a national station which had broadcasts interrupted on Sunday.
According to Nguema, who also heads TV Plus, Go Africa had made its outside broadcast unit available to TV Plus following problems experienced by the sister station's transmitter on Sunday.
The transmitter is located on a site protected by the Republican Guard which come under the defence ministry and is responsible for the safety of the president and other senior officials.
It was shut down after a warning to the channel from Gabon's communication authorities over broadcasts showing the late president, which they argued should be halted as campaigning in the election had ended.
Nguema had described the shutdown as "intimidation" by Ali Bongo's supporters.
One of the mobile phone companies, Moov, told subscribers that the SMS service had been suspended for two days.
Subscribers have been receiving messages claiming victory on behalf of each of the three candidates despite the fact that the official results have not yet been announced.
The electoral contest was marred by complaints of irregularities despite only isolated incidents of violence.
Ali Bongo, a former defence minister, is the favourite to succeed his father who died in June after 41 years in power. His rivals allege the results have been rigged in his favour.
Date created : 2009-09-03