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Curfew declared after Bongo election win sparks unrest

Video by France 2 / Kate Williams (France 24)

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-04

Gabon is under curfew following violent protests in the capital Libreville and the city of Port-Gentil after ruling party candidate Ali Ben Bongo, son of late President Omar Bongo Ondima, was declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential poll.

AFP - Gabon slapped a curfew on its economic hub Port-Gentil on Thursday as opposition supporters went on the rampage after the son of the oil-rich nation's late leader was declared winner of a bitter presidential election.
   
"The curfew went into effect on Thursday from 8 pm (1900 GMT) to 6 am" on Friday and will be repeated as long as necessary if calm does not prevail, the interior ministry said after protesters torched a French consulate in the city of 80,000 and attacked a prison.
   
Disturbances were also reported in several districts of the political capital Libreville after officials said Ali Bongo had won the contest to succeed his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, with around 42 percent of the vote.
   
Crowds of young men chanted "Death to the Whites" as Paris told around 10,000 French nationals not to leave their homes amid rumours the former colonial power had conspired to fix the result.
   

The shells of burnt-out cars littered highways around the capital while demonstrators had set fire to piles of tyres and erected makeshift barricades.
   
By nightfall, Libreville's streets were all but deserted except for the police and army.
   
"Measures are in place to ensure the security of French citizens ... It is recommended to French people to stay at home," international development minister Alain Joyandet told AFP in Paris.
   
He said that around 80 French soldiers -- out of 1,000 stationed at France's permanent base in the country -- had been "called out" in Port-Gentil following the attack on the consulate and on French companies Total and Schlumberger.
   
Violence also erupted in Nkembo, east of the capital. "People are breaking anything that they can, they have smashed stores. It is a mess," said resident Benjamin Ngouan.
   
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged "calm and restraint by all concerned so that tensions do not escalate," his deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said at UN headquarters in New York.
   
After several delays, the electoral commission finally announced on Thursday that Ali Bongo, a former defence minister, had won the presidency, succeeding his father who ruled for 41 years until his death in June.
   
Ali Bongo was declared the winner with 42 percent of votes cast in Sunday's election, putting him clearly ahead of his nearest rival Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister, who won 26 percent of votes.
   
Mamboundou came third with 25 percent.
   
All three had proclaimed victory soon after polls closed and the build-up to Thursday's announcement had been marked by growing tensions.
   
"This is an electoral coup d'etat. I do not recognise the election results. It's me who won," Mba Obame told AFP from a secret location
   
Security forces used tear gas and baton charged demonstrators, including Mba Obame and Mamboundou who was reportedly wounded, outside the electoral commission building before the results were announced, witnesses said.
   
After the results were announced Ali Bongo pledged to unite the country.
   
"As far as I am concerned, I am and I will always be the president of all the people of Gabon... I am and I will always be at the service of all, without exclusion," he said at his campaign headquarters in Libreville.
   
African Union observers on Tuesday said that while the election met legal provisions, "ballot boxes were not sealed in some places" and some polling station staff apparently did not "master the voting process."
   
Home to 1.5 million people, Gabon is strategically important as the fourth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan African. It is also a major exporter of manganese and wood.

Date created : 2009-09-03

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