Bongo appeals for calm as post-election violence continues
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Gabon's president-elect Ali Bongo has appealed for calm as fresh violence erupted in the country's second city, Port-Gentil. The military has been dispatched to tear gas looters. Two people were left dead.
AFP - Gabon's president-elect Ali Bongo appealed for calm Saturday after protests against his hotly disputed election victory left two people dead and unrest broke out again for a third night running.
"We are dispersing looters using tear gas at Matanda" in the south of Gabon's second city Port-Gentil, a military source told AFP.
Looters had also been reported in the east of the city and had set up barricades on main roads to stop police vehicles from patrolling, the source added.
Witnesses, contacted by telephone, said clashes had also taken place in the centre of Port-Gentil.
In Libreville, Bongo watched Cameroon defeat Gabon 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match, while 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."
Since the election result was announced on Thursday at least two people have been shot dead in unrest in Port-Gentil where security forces battled looters overnight Friday to Saturday and a police station was also attacked. A curfew is in place.
A social club run by French oil giant Total in Port-Gentil was torched on Friday, leading the company to move its foreign staff and their families to Libreville.
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.
At the football match 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!" 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 Thursday 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."