Violence engulf Libreville, presidency accuse ping camp of coordinated attacks

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The office of Gabon’s President Ali Bongo on Thursday accused the camp of his rival in a disputed election, Jean Ping, of planning “coordinated attacks on symbols of the state”, after the capital Libreville erupted into rioting.

“These were not protests but coordinated acts intended to incite fear amongst the citizens who voted the ‘wrong’ way,” the statement said, saying that security forces had in response encircled Ping’s headquarters and clashed with his supporters, resulting in one death.

INTERNET CUT

“Certain individuals clearly with bad intentions continue to demonstrate in Libreville but we are putting everything in place to bring back calm and secure people and property,” said a senior police source who declined to be named.

Libreville residents said that the internet was cut on Thursday. Social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, stopped functioning overnight. Earlier in the week, customs officials seized satellite telephones they said had been imported illegally.

Bongo won 49.80 percent of votes in Saturday’s election against 48.23 percent for Ping, according results read by Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya on Wednesday, after the announcement was delayed by one day.

“This victory by such a tight score obliges … each of us to respect the verdict of the ballot box,” Bongo said in the text of a speech distributed to reporters late on Wednesday.

Bongo was elected in 2009 upon the death of his father Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon for 42 years. He benefited from an engrained patronage system lubricated by oil money ahead of the vote.

But economic headwinds caused by falling oil prices and crude production have led to budget cuts in one of Africa’s wealthiest nations, providing fuel for opposition charges that Gabon’s 1.8 million citizens have suffered under his rule.

Ping, a political insider who has served as foreign minister and African Union Commission chairman, was a close ally of the late president and fathered two children with his daughter.

Ping said he was not calling on his supporters to protest because they were already under so much pressure from authorities. He said he feared arms would be planted in his party headquarters and he could be arrested as a result.

Despite a bitter campaign, election day was peaceful. However supporters of both Bongo and Ping swapped accusations of fraud.

An EU observer mission criticized a “lack of transparency” among institutions running the election and said Bongo had benefited from preferential access to money and the media.

UP TO 1000 ARRESTED

Authorities in Gabon have made up to 1,100 arrests over two days of violence that erupted after President Ali Bongo was re-elected in polls that the opposition rejected as fraudulent, the interior minister told a news conference on Thursday.

Pacome Moubelet Boubeya said that between 600 and 800 people were arrested in the capital Libreville, while 200 to 300 arrests were made elsewhere in Gabon. He said that protesters had used grenades and police had seized AK-47 assault rifles.

 

– AFP

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