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Clashes erupt in Gabon over self-appointed 'president'

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-27

Gabon security forces fired tear gas and arrested about 30 supporters of opposition leader Andre Mba Obame at a protest in Libreville Thursday. Mba Obame declared himself "president" on Tuesday and appointed his own government.

AFP - Gabon security forces fired tear gas and arrested about 30 supporters of opposition leader Andre Mba Obame at a protest in Libreville, injuring several, one of his aides said.

Mba Obame, a former foreign minister and failed presidential candidate, was holed up in UN offices in the capital after declaring himself 'president' on Tuesday and appointing his own government.

Michel Ongoundou, appointed defence minister in the Mba Obame's government, told AFP that soldiers and paramilitary gendarmes had moved in on protesters at dawn outside the UN premises.

"There was tear gas fired. There have been people injured and about 30 arrests," he said.

Mba Obame took refuge Wednesday in the offices of the United Nations Development Programme demanding recognition, as the government dissolved his party and warned he faced treason charges.

An interior ministry spokesman told AFP that it was "possible that there have been arrests, but if these people are just supporters, they will not stay in prison."

An AFP journalist who visited the site at 6:15 am (0515 GMT) was escorted away by gendarmes, but saw officers cleaning up plastic bottles and other debris from the vigil: a tent, sound system and plastic chairs set up the demonstrators on Wednesday.

There was no sign of any demonstrators.

"It started at around four o'clock," said Ongondou, who said he had spent the night with 30 other opposition activists, including Mba Obame, at the UN offices.

"I was on the terrace and I saw two lorries arrive, then a column of riot police. They immediately charged," he added.

The young opposition supporters started shouting, he added.

"Some had been injured and climbed the wall to take refuge here. Others were chased into the neighbouring districts."

Mba Obame's claim Tuesday that he was president, and his unveiling of a "government", prompted the 53-nation African Union to voice concern and call for the Gabon opposition to respect the law.

Hours after the announcement, the interior ministry announced that Mba Obame's National Unity party was immediately dissolved and he and his supporters were stripped of their official duties and faced treason charges.

Date created : 2011-01-27

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