Court affirms Bongo win but looting continues
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Gabon's economic capital Port-Gentil was hit by fresh violence on Friday as looters ransacked a police station despite a curfew. Gabon's constitutional court has confirmed that Ali Bongo won Sunday's presidential poll with 41.73% of the vote.
Gangs went on a looting spree and torched a police station in Gabon's second city Friday in new unrest after Ali Bongo, son of the country's late strongman, was declared winner of a bitterly contested presidential poll.
The country's constitutional court confirmed Bongo had won with 41.73% of the vote during a TV broadcast this Friday.
Protesters torched the French consulate in Port-Gentil, the oil-rich country's economic hub, and attacked other French interests, including offices of oil firm Total on Thursday after Bongo's contested win was declared.
Police said more than 50 arrests were made during the night as gangs destroyed service stations and pillaged stores despite a curfew.
On Friday demonstrators ransacked and then burnt a single-storey police station in the city. Residents said the attackers had freed detainees from police holding cells before torching it.
The streets of the coastal city were virtually empty Friday and security forces staged high profile patrols.
Early Friday afternoon, police and gendarmes used tear gas to break up hundreds of looters and residents, who had gathered to complain and list damages during rioting the previous evening, near Port Gentil's city centre.
Gabon Interior and Security Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou said a curfew, imposed in the city on Thursday evening, would remain in place until further notice, as he urged calm.
Ndongou also confirmed damage and pillaging in the capital.
"What I know is that in Libreville many compatriots have lost their goods, cars have been damaged..." he said, but stressed that the "situation is normal" in other parts of the country.
Many Port Gentil residents compared the unrest with sweeping violence that erupted in the city in 1990, when an opponent of former president Omar Bongo, who ruled for 41 years until his death in June, was found dead under suspicious circumstances.
"If this situation continues we will see a shortage of food supplies like we did in 1990," said one, who asked not to be named.
France decided to evacuate its nationals out of Port Gentil, considered the bastion of opposition to the Bongo family. Ten thousand French people elsewhere in Gabon were advised to stay in their homes.
French troops were put on duty around the debris of the consulate as groups of young Gabonese threatened French nationals, accusing the former colonial power of colluding to fix the result of Sunday's election.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied his country had helped Ali Bongo and said Paris "did not have a candidate."
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.
Main opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou came third with 25 percent. But all three had proclaimed victory after the polls closed.
Ali Bongo urged his defeated rivals to accept the outcome.
"The people have spoken and the people are sovereign," he told France's Le Monde daily.
"The contest is now over. The Gabonese people cannot be held hostage... A majority has spoken in favour of a particular candidate. From today, he is now the president of the whole of Gabon."
Moved to a secret location, Mba Obame told AFP: "This is an electoral coup d'etat. I do not recognise the election results. It's me who won."
Security forces tear gassed and baton charged demonstrators, including Mba Obame and Mamboundou outside the electoral commission headquarters before the results were announced, witnesses and their supporters said.
The authorities denied there was any action against the opposition leaders.
The party of Mamboundou, who cam third according to official results, on Friday urged "resistance" and expressed fears over the fate of their leader, saying he had received head and shoulder wounds during an earlier security crackdown.
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.