Gabon’s Presidential Election Concluded Amidst Widespread Protests
The incumbent of Gabon, President Ali Bongo has won a closely fought Presidential Election, as announced by the country’s Interior Ministry, Pacome Moubelet Boubeya.
The Minister said that bongo had obtained 49.80 percent of Saturday’s vote, beating his rival jean ping who received 48.23 percent.
Bongo won by only 5,594 votes, of a total 627,805 registered voters.
Moments after the announcement, anti-government protests erupted in parts of Libreville as the opposition demanded a recount on the province of Haut-Ogooue, where bongo won 95.5 percent of the vote.
Results from the province showed a turnout of more than 90 percent, compared with a nationwide turnout of 59.46 percent.
Gabon security forces stormed the opposition’s headquarters early on Thursday, leaving several people injured, as violence swept the capital after President Ali Bongo was declared the winner of contested polls.
Thousands of angry protesters took to the streets of Libreville, accusing the government of stealing the election after Bongo won a second term by a thin margin over rival Jean Ping.
Gunfire crackled across the city and plumes of smoke billowed from the torched parliament building as anti-government protesters clashed with heavily armed security forces, injuring at least six people.
Security forces surrounded the opposition headquarters overnight and attempted to storm the building.
“They attacked around 1:00am (0000 GMT). It is the Republican Guard. They were bombarding with helicopters and then they attacked on the ground. There are 19 people injured, some of them very seriously,” said Ping, who was not at the party headquarters himself.
The president of the opposition National Union party, Zacharie Myboto, who was inside the besieged building, said security forces were hurling tear gas canisters and had opened fire.
“For nearly an hour the building has been surrounded. They want to enter the building… it is extremely violent,” he said.
A government spokesperson said security forces had stormed the opposition headquarters to catch “criminals” who had earlier set fire to the parliament building.
“Armed people who set fire to the parliament had gathered at Jean Ping’s headquarters along with hundreds of looters and thugs… they were not political protesters but criminals,” said Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze.
A heavily military and police presence had brought large parts of Libreville to a standstill and internet access has also been cut.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called for calm and expressed concern over the clashes and reports of arson, urging political leaders “to address their differences peacefully and to address any disputes they may have through existing constitutional and legal channels”, the UN said in a statement.
Gabon is a former French colony that has been hit by the global slump in the price of crude oil, its biggest export.
One third of Gabon’s population lives in poverty, despite the country boasting one of Africa’s highest per capita incomes at $8,300 (7,400 euros), thanks to pumping 200,000 barrels of oil a day.
Bongo, 57, campaigned under the slogan ‘Let’s change together’, playing up the roads and hospitals built during his first term and stressing the need to break with the bad old days of disappearing public funds and suspect management of oil revenues.
According to Hindus Times, The campaign period was marked by months of bitter exchanges between the two camps, including accusations, and strenuous denials, that Bongo was born in Nigeria and therefore ineligible to run.
Ping’s own roots — he is Sino-Gabonese — served as ammunition for Bongo’s camp, which has suggested he and his son are secretly serving Chinese interests.