- Central Africa
- Conflicts - Politics
Violence erupts in Gabon after Ali Bongo wins election, main contenders injured another flees
The interior minister of Gabon, Jean François Ndongou, announced Thursday noon that Ali Bongo had won the presidential elections. A result that his contenders have outrightly rejected, but that the armed forces are intent on applying force, if necessary, to have the results accepted. Gendarmes in red berets broke a sit-in that the opposition had organised outside the headquarters of the Autonomous and Permanent National Electoral Commission (Cenap) this morning. Several people were wounded, including Pierre Mamboundou, one of Ali Bongo’s main contenders. His other main contender, Andre Mba Obame, has fled for dear life. Ali Bongo’s victory has sparked violence in several neighbourhoods within the capital, Libreville and Port Gentil, the second largest city in Gabon.
"There was a lot of violence this morning at around 9 o’clock. There was gunfire. The Red Berets charged towards the candidates who had gathered outside the headquarters of the Cenap" said a very worried Franck Nguéma, campaign assistant for independent candidate and former Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame. The latter, exfiltrated by his bodyguards, has gone into hiding fearing for dear life. Other presidential candidates have been injured by the police. Among them, Pierre Mamboundou, leader of the Union of Gabonese People (UPG) and Zacharie Myboto, the Gabonese Union for Democracy and Development (UGDD) and his spokesman, Pierre-Marie Gondjout.
Several thousands people, honouring a call from Peter Mamboudou and other opposition leaders, gathered last night at the Cité de la Démocratie, where the Cenap was meeting. Today, at dawn, the president of the Cenap Rene Aboghé Ella, declared on state television RTG1 that there was "some difficulty agreeing on how to validate the results”. Although the opposition (which has members within the Cenap) refused to validate the results presented, Rene Aboghé Ella declared former defence minister and presidential candidate for the ruling party (PDG), Ali Bongo, winner. According to Interior Minister Jean-François Ndongou, who was among the first to receive the official results, Ali Bongo, son of the late president, Omar Bongo, has won the August 30 presidential elections with a 41.73 per cent of the total vote, way ahead of his two rivals. His closest rival, Pierre Mamboundou, got only 25.88 per cent of the vote while, Mba Obame got 25.88 per cent. Gabon does not hold run-offs, which means a president could hold power even if he had fewer votes than the opposition.
These results and news of violent attacks perpetrated by the armed forces against the opposition has caused a lot of excitement in the capital, particularly in poorer districts, including Rio, east of Libreville, where numerous protests have been observed. In Port-Gentil, Gabon’s economic capital and stronghold of the opposition, demonstrators attacked the consulate of France and stormed the city’s prison, freeing prisoners. Road blocks have also be put up by angry Gabonese in several areas. Armed troops have been deployed around the country. In Libreville the sound of flying Army helicopters is deafening.
Since the end of the polling exercise, the three men (André Mba, Pierre Mamboundou and Ali Bongo) have been fighting a war of numbers, via press releases, SMS’ and interposed statements, Ali Bongo’s rivals insist that a win for the late president’s son could only be explained by ballot box stuffing and the eventual corruption of polling station overseers. A controversial delay in the release of the results consolidated doubts. Earlier, Messrs. Mba Obame and Mamboundou had urged the Gabonese to show their displeasure in the event of an "electoral hold-up." The African Union (AU) indicated that some "irregularities" and "shortcomings" were observed during the voting exercise, however, they believe it was conducted "in accordance with legal provisions". The outcome of the elections could hurt the central African nation’s future.