Ten­sions sim­mer in Gabon af­ter dis­puted elec­tion

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LIBREVILLE — Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo of Gabon poured scorn on op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers who ri­oted overnight af­ter he was de­clared the win­ner of a week­end elec­tion his main ri­val said was rigged.

Three peo­ple were killed in the un­rest and around 1 000 ar­rested, the in­te­rior min­is­ter said.

“Democ­racy does not fit com­fort­ably with self­de­clared vic­tory, with small groups trained in de­struc­tion,” Bongo said in a short speech from the pres­i­den­tial palace.

“Democ­racy does not sit well with an at­tack on par­lia­ment,” he said, re­fer­ring to the na­tional assem­bly build­ing that was set ablaze.

“The elec­tions have de­liv­ered their ver­dict . . . Who lost? A small group whose only plan was to take power to make use of Gabon rather than serve it.”

Soon af­ter Satur­day’s poll, op­po­si­tion can­di­date Jean Ping (73) said he had won and that any re­sults to the con­trary would be fraud­u­lent.

Thou­sands of an­gry pro­test­ers poured onto the streets of the cap­i­tal Libreville, ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of steal­ing the elec­tion af­ter Bongo won a sec­ond term by a ra­zor-thin mar­gin over Ping.

His vic­tory is set to ex­tend the Bongo fam­ily’s al­most 50-year rule over the small oil-rich na­tion.

Ping said two peo­ple were killed and 19 hurt in a raid on his head­quar­ters.

An­other op­po­si­tion leader, Did­job Ding Du­vun­gui, claimed that be­tween 500 and 600 peo­ple had been ar­rested there. He spoke as he waited to be trans­ferred to po­lice head­quar­ters for ques­tion­ing along with ten oth­ers.

Se­cu­rity forces had sealed off the city cen­tre, which was calm and oth­er­wise de­serted, with troops, po­lice and anti-riot squads pa­trolling the streets.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Pa­come Moubelet-Boubeya said three peo­ple had died in the vi­o­lence and that be­tween 600 and 800 peo­ple had been de­tained in Libreville, and 200 to 300 in the rest of the coun­try.

As Gabon de­scended into chaos, the EU called for calm, while for­mer colo­nial power France urged “max­i­mum re­straint” and Amnesty In­ter­na­tional warned against the use of “ex­ces­sive force”.

Po­lice chief Jean-Thierry Oye Zue said six of­fi­cers had been in­jured in the post-vote ri­ots and said there were “very prob­a­bly” civil­ian in­juries “given the vi­o­lence with which they at­tacked us”.

A Red Cross worker who gave his name as Gil­das said one of 15 peo­ple who were in­jured and brought in by an army truck had died.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear where Ping — a veteran diplo­mat and for­mer top African Union of­fi­cial — had taken refuge.

A Euro­pean diplo­mat said he was safe, how­ever. In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­mained cut-off across swathes of the coun­try.

In Libreville, the par­lia­ment build­ing’s fa­cade was black­ened by fire and its win­dows were smashed. Pro­test­ers had torn down its huge main gate and torched a sen­try box at the en­trance.

On the city’s main ar­te­rial road, the Boule­vard Tri­om­phal — the lo­ca­tion of nu­mer­ous gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions and for­eign em­bassies — burnt-out build­ings and cars could be seen, while makeshift bar­ri­cades were still smoul­der­ing.

A gov­ern­ment spokesman said the se­cu­rity oper­a­tion was to catch the “crim­i­nals” and “loot­ers and thugs” re­spon­si­ble for the par­lia­ment blaze.

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon said po­lice had used “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” force and called for the re­lease of “po­lit­i­cal de­tainees im­me­di­ately and un­con­di­tion­ally”.

The re­sults of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — which gave Bongo 49.8 per­cent to Ping’s 48.23 per­cent, a gap of less than 6 000 votes — re­main “pro­vi­sional” un­til they are ap­proved by the con­sti­tu­tional court.

The op­po­si­tion has called for re­sults from each of Gabon’s polling sta­tions to be made pub­lic to en­sure the cred­i­bil­ity of the over­all out­come.

Bongo’s spokesman, Alain-Claude Bilie-Bye-Nze, dis­missed the de­mands, say­ing they broke the coun­try’s elec­tion law, which states that re­sults should be bro­ken down by re­gion.

Any ap­peal by Ping would likely fo­cus on dis­puted re­sults in Haut-Ogooue prov­ince, the heart­land of Bongo’s Teke eth­nic group.

In Satur­day’s vote, turnout was 59.46 per­cent na­tion­wide but soared to 99.93 per­cent in HautO­gooue, where Bongo won 95.5 per­cent of the votes cast. “It’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to get peo­ple to ac­cept th­ese re­sults,” one mem­ber of the elec­toral com­mis­sion told AFP, ask­ing not to be named.

“We’ve never seen re­sults like th­ese, even dur­ing the fa­ther’s time,” he added.

Bongo took power in 2009 in a vi­o­lence-marred elec­tion that fol­lowed the death of his fa­ther, Omar Bongo, who had gov­erned the oil-rich for­mer French colony for 41 years.

One-third of Gabon’s pop­u­la­tion lives in poverty, though the coun­try boasts one of Africa’s high­est per capita in­comes at $8 300 thanks to pump­ing 200 000 bar­rels of oil a day. — AFP — WASH­ING­TON — Me­la­nia Trump, the wife of US Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump, on Thurs­day sued two me­dia out­lets that al­leged she was an es­cort in the 1990s.

The suit — filed in state cir­cuit court for Mont­gomery County, Mary­land and ac­quired by AFP — is against Mail Me­dia, Inc. which pub­lishes the Daily Mail On­line, and Web­ster G Tarp­ley, who pub­lishes a blog.

Me­la­nia Trump, an ex-model of Slove­nian ori­gin, was seek­ing dam­ages to the tune of $150m.

“Th­ese de­fen­dants made sev­eral state­ments about Mrs Trump that are 100 per­cent false and tremen­dously dam­ag­ing to her per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion,” said her at­tor­ney Charles Harder.

“De­fen­dants broad­cast their lies to mil­lions of peo­ple through­out the US and the world.”

“De­fen­dants’ ac­tions are so egre­gious, ma­li­cious and harm­ful to Mrs Trump that her dam­ages are es­ti­mated at $150 mil­lion dol­lars.”

Me­la­nia Trump is 24 years younger than her bil­lion­aire hus­band. She is Don­ald Trump’s third wife and the mother of their young son Bar­ron.

Harder spe­cialises in cases that in­volve pri­vacy pro­tec­tion and defama­tion.

He rep­re­sented for­mer wrestler Hulk Ho­gan in his suc­cess­ful law­suit against Gawker Me­dia, which re­sulted in a $140m jury award against the en­ter­tain­ment web­site for re­leas­ing a sex tape fea­tur­ing Ho­gan and a friend’s wife.

The de­ci­sion caused Gawker to shut­ter its flag­ship web­site, af­ter the court or­der drove the com­pany to bank­ruptcy. — AFP

Oro­mos have long com­plained of marginal­i­sa­tion by the gov­ern­ment Reuters

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