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Bongo calls for calm as post-election violence flares


Video by Florence VILLEMINOT


Latest update : 2009-09-06

Gabon's president-elect Ali Bongo has appealed for calm as violence continues in the country's second city, Port Gentil. French oil giant Total earlier pulled its foreign staff out of the riot-hit city after one of its buildings was torched.

AFP - Gabon's president-elect Ali Bongo attended a World Cup qualifying match on Saturday and appealed for calm after protests against his hotly disputed election victory that have left two people dead.

While Bongo watched Cameroon defeat Gabon 2-0 in the key match, the losing election candidates reiterated their charges that the results of the vote were fixed.

After the game Bongo, whose father Omar Bongo ruled the country for 41 years until his death in June, appealed for calm and urged his rivals to take their grievances to court.

"We are a nation of laws and therefore there are institutions in place for those who have complaints," the former defence minister told Radio France Internationale (RFI). "Calm must absolutely return to the entire territory."

Meanwhile tension boiled over again in Gabon's second city of Port-Gentil where a social club run by French oil giant Total was torched, leading the company to move its foreign staff and their families to Libreville.

At least two people were shot dead over three days of unrest in Port-Gentil since results were announced on Thursday.

Security forces battled looters overnight in the economic hub where a curfew has been ordered after a police station was also attacked.

France, the former colonial power, evacuated most of its citizens out of Port-Gentil after the French consulate there was torched on Thursday, and warned French nationals elsewhere in the country to stay in their homes.

In Libreville, Bongo wore a Gabon football jersey and even donned yellow shoes in the team colour to watch the game. He left 10 minutes before the end.

"Disappointed or afraid? In any case, it was more prudent for him to leave," said one fan named Alain.

The crowd did not shout political slogans during the match, but a few chanted "Ali, jinx!", "We waste, we waste, we break!" as they left the stadium named after Omar Bongo, who was Africa's longest-serving ruler until his death.

Ali Bongo, 50, was declared winner of the August 30 election with 42 percent of the vote.

Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister, came in second with 26 percent of votes, followed by main opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou with 25 percent. But all three had proclaimed victory after the polls closed.

"We know that the results announced by the interior minister are false," former prime minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong, who had dropped out of the race to back Mba Obame, told a news conference.

Mba Obame, who also attended the news conference, had not been seen in public since an opposition sit-in in front of the electoral commission was broken up by police on Thursday. He declined to make any comment.

Mamboundou has not been seen since he also took part in the demonstration and his entourage says that he was injured when the protesters were dispersed.

Gabon's neighbours urged all sides to refrain from stoking unrest.

Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, current head of the Economic Community of Central African States, urged political leaders to "abstain from any initiative that would disturb the peace."

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, the current chairman of the African Union, telephoned Ali Bongo to express "his best wishes to the new president," Libya's official JANA news agency reported.

The French government, which has been accused by its Socialist opposition of endorsing a flawed election, denied it had a favourite candidate and said it was ready to work with the oil-rich nation's elected president.

"France did not have any candidate, none," French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet told AFP, adding that the election was "welcomed by international observers".

Date created : 2009-09-05