Gabon: Violent Clashes Between Security Forces And Protestors After Results Of Presidential Elections

Riots erupted in 9 suburbs of Libreville, Gabon’s capital city, on Thursday after the results of the presidential elections, the winner of which is the incumbent President, Ali Bongo. Supporters of Ali Bongo’s main rival, Jean Ping, have made accusations of the elections being rigged. While hundreds of people had begun protesting in the streets of Libreville and partially setting the parliament on fire, security forces encircled Ping’s party’s headquarters leaving two civilians dead and 19 injured, according to the opposition leader.

Both the police and the military were dispatched to the city in order to put an end to the protests and to force civilians to remain at home. Clashes between security forces and protesters were particularly violent in the Democracy crossroad, a popular place for social protests, where 200 anti-riot police officers were deployed. They used tear gas, deafening bombs, and hot water canons to disperse protesters. According to The Associated Press, more than 1,000 protesters were arrested, some of them armed with AK-47 rifles.

Both France and the United States of America called for the parties to return to calm and asked for more transparency regarding the results of the elections. Following the lead of the EU, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Marc Ayrault requested that the “results of the elections be reported station by station.”

Although the election took place peacefully, the delay in the results is, for Mr. Ping, the proof that the results are fraudulent. He also cited as evidence of fraud Mr. Bongo’s 99.9% turnout in some places where he was favoured. In particular, according to official counts, the participation rate in the province of Haut-Ogooué’s was 99.93% against 59.4% in the whole country, and 95.46% of the electors voted for Ali Bongo.

 Mr. Bongo, who won the elections with a narrow margin of 5,594 votes, was elected to his first term in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had been President since 1968. Their family is largely accused of using the country’s abundant resources in oil, minerals, and forests to their own benefit and to the detriment of the population, who largely suffer from unemployment and poverty. Mr. Ping, a former chairman of the African Union, has painted himself as an outsider, but in fact, he had served in Omar Bongo’s cabinet for years before breaking from the party.  Ali Bongo has tried to differentiate himself from his father through policies to combat poverty and cut unemployment, in particular by attracting foreign investments. These programs are, however, still at an early stage, so their efficiency is yet to be proved.