Ruling party candidate Ali Ben Bongo (pictured), the son of late Gabonese leader Omar Bongo Ondima, has been declared the winner of Sunday’s presidential poll, sparking violent protests in the Libreville capital and the second city of Port-Gentil.
Protests erupted in the Gabonese capital Libreville after the son of late President Omar Bongo Ondimba, Ali Ben, was declared winner of a hotly contested election on Thursday with 41.73 percent of the vote, according to the country’s electoral commission.
Gabonese opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou is reported to have been seriously injured in a clash with security forces as his party rejected Bongo's victory in the poll.
"[Mamboundou] was seriously injured. We can't tell you exactly how he is but he is alive," Richard Mombo, secretary general of Mamboundou's Union for Gabonese People (UPG) party, said in an interview with Reuters.
Violence also broke out in several districts of Port-Gentil, Gabon's second city and its commercial capital, with opposition supporters setting fire to France's consulate there.
Rivals have stated they feared that the official results, which were released five days after the election took place, were being tampered with to ensure a dynastic succession from father to son.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, Bongo spokesperson Clémence Mezui justified the delays in releasing poll results. “The so-called opposition demanded that votes were recounted seven times,” she said, “the process took the necessary time.”
“President of the Gabonese people”
Rene Aboghe Ella, the head of the electoral commission, declared on state television that Bongo had been elected after results for the country’s nine provinces were presented.
His father had ruled the country unchallenged for 41 years until his death in June, which led to Sunday’s presidential race.
Bongo the younger, who also served as the country’s ex-defence minister, was largely favoured to win the poll. He promised to be the “president of the Gabonese people” in a speech delivered just after the announcement.
Former interior minister Andre Mba Obame was the poll’s runner-up, with 25.88 percent of the vote. Long-time opposition leader Mamboundou came in a close third, with 25.22 percent, according to the electoral commission.
Special correspondent at Radio France Internationale, Christophe Boisbouvier, told FRANCE 24 that there is “deep dissatisfaction in the rival camps. Opponents are convinced the figures are the result of a fraud organised during the last 48 hours”.
Opposition supporters torch French consulate
Besides targeting the French consulate in Port-Gentil, several hundred of Mamboundou’s supporters looted shops and freed inmates of the city's prison just after the delayed poll results were published. They later set up barricades in the centre of the town, reported Agence France Presse.
In some neighbourhoods of Port-Gentil, crowds of young men chanted "Death to the Whites" and shouted threats to kill French nationals amid rumours that the former colonial power had conspired to fix the election result.
French oil company Total’s extraction concession and US oil field services firm Schlumberger were also the target of an attack in Port-Gentil, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.
Reacting to the clashes, Kouchner said measures had been taken “to protect French nationals in Gabon" if it became necessary, but added that he thought it was unlikely. “French citizens will not be harmed, even in the slightest way,” said Bongo’s spokesperson Mezui, “they have a right to live here in peace.”
Soldiers from the French army were, however, deployed to the French consulate in Port-Gentil, which suffered substantial damage.
About 10,000 French nationals live in Gabon and there is a French military base with at least 1,000 soldiers.
Date created : 2009-09-03