Opposition says Gabon vote ‘a joke’ as violence erupts

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Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping has
demanded a recount after incumbent President Ali
Bongo was declared winner of a knife-edge
presidential election in the West African nation.

Loud explosions and gunfire could be heard in the
Nkembo neighbourhood of the capital Libreville on
Thursday, witnesses said, as security forces
clashed with angry Ping supporters.
“Everybody inside and outside the country knows
that I’m the winner. There is no doubt about that.
All the European observers know that,” Ping said.
“That man [Bongo], I believe, is used to cheating,
always. And the population is not accepting this
type of remake of cheating every seven years,” the
opposition leader added.
“What we are asking is, under the supervision of
the international community, to count ballot by
ballot, bureau by bureau. And then you will see
that the margin is so big that he cannot win. It’s
as simple as that.”
The Reuters news agency reported that rioting had
erupted in at least nine different suburbs of the
capital on Thursday, citing witnesses and a police
source.
As the violence spread, France called on the
government of the former French colony to release
details of local vote tallies after the claims of
rigging.
“The election result must be perfectly clear and
transparent,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc
Ayrault said on RMC radio, adding that the election
results should be published bureau by bureau.

Overnight on Thursday, security forces attacked
the opposition headquarters in Libreville, Ping said,
wounding several people.
“The presidential guard plus some mercenaries
and the police, after 1am, bombed my
headquarters. They destroyed everything, and we
have now two deaths and several people injured.”
Bongo won 49.80 percent of Saturday’s vote
against 48.23 percent for Ping, a narrow margin of
only 5,594 votes of a total 627,805 registered
voters.
Fires and explosions
Moments after the poll results were announced by
the interior ministry on Wednesday, anti-
government protesters shouting “Ali must go!”
tried to storm the offices of the election
commission.
Later on Wednesday the country’s parliament
building was partially set on fire.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from the
electoral commission compound in Libreville, said
Ping’s camp would not accept the result.
“Protesters came right outside this compound,
many of them lighting tyres and chanting anti-
government songs,” she said.
“They were dispersed by the police,” she said,
adding that explosions could be heard in the
distance.
Earlier, clouds of smoke and tear gas could be
seen over parts of the city where clashes were
taking place.
By nightfall, protesters vented their fury by setting
fire to the parliament building, sending skyward a
plume of flames and black smoke, witnesses and
AFP news agency correspondents said.
Fires were visible in other parts of Libreville and
explosions were heard as protesters faced off
against heavily armed security forces.
Source: Al Jazeera And Agencies

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