Gabon, the Tiny Oil-producing nation was plunged into political crisis on Thursday after a narrow and disputed election victory for incumbent president, Ali Bongo, sparked a second day of violence between protesters and security forces in the capital, Libreville.
The vote was the most serious challenge to the Bongo family’s grip on power for nearly half a century. Ali Bongo became president in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar, who ruled for 42 years. Analysts had not expected the vote to so be close.
Voting at the weekend was peaceful, but tensions grew when both Mr Bongo and his main opponent, Jean Ping, said they had won before results were released. The government delayed the announcement for nearly 24 hours, citing problems with the count in Mr Bongo’s home province. Mr Bongo won by a margin of only 5,000 votes.
Protests erupted on Wednesday night, hours after Mr Bongo was declared the winner. Demonstrators set part of the parliament building on fire.
Mr Ping said, two people were killed when security forces stormed his campaign headquarters. Gunfire and explosions were heard in the capital on Thursday amid fresh clashes, according to agency reports.
Mr Ping said the count had been falsified and called for international assistance to protect the population.
“Everybody knows that I won the election,” he told Reuters. “The [Bongo] family are repeating the same scenario for almost half a century. The opposition can win the elections but they have never had access to power.”
A spokesman for the president said the unrest was the work of “criminal agitators” and called on Mr Ping to “call off his thugs and stop vandalising the city”.
The EU, which sent an observer mission to Gabon for the elections, said the result from each polling station needed to verified. The UN urged security forces to exercise restraint.
France, Gabon’s former colonial ruler, has long had close economic and political links with the Bongo family but the French government has not endorsed the results of this vote. President François Hollande of France called for “a process to ensure transparency in the election results”.
Protesters take to streets as opposition