Gabon police arrest 200 over post-election looting
LIBREVILLE — More than 200 people have been arrested for looting in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, where violence broke out following a disputed presidential election result, the police chief said yesterday.
“We have arrested more than 200 looters since last night,” national police chief Jean-Thierry Oye Zue said. “Looting is currently continuing in the poorer districts.”
“Six police officers have been injured,” Oye Zue said, adding that several civilians had also “most likely” been hurt.
He did not confirm however if there had been any deaths. “I can’t tell you that,” he said.
AFP journalists saw two trucks packed with dozens of detainees, who raised their fists in the air and chanted the Central African country’s national anthem as they were driven off for questioning.
Violence erupted yesterday after President Ali Bongo was declared the winner of the contested polls, with thousands of angry protesters taking to the streets of Libreville accusing the government of stealing the election from rival Jean Ping.
The opposition leader said security forces killed two people and injured 19 more at his headquarters.
Meanwhile, Ping has demanded a recount after the knife-edge presidential election in the West African nation. Speaking to Al Jazeera from Libreville, Ping said the result was “a joke”.
“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.
“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 yesterday, 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 yesterday, 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.”
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.
Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for all sides in Gabon to reject violence as the country descends into chaos following presidential elections.
“The official announcement of results has plunged Gabon into a deep crisis,” Mogherini said in a statement. “It is important for all parties to reject violence and call for calm.”— Al Jazeera
More than 200 people have been arrested for looting in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, where violence broke out following a disputed presidential election result, the police chief said yesterday