Gabon’s post-elec­tion vi­o­lence claims more lives

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

LIBREVILLE — Post-elec­tion vi­o­lence in Gabon has claimed two more lives, sources said Satur­day, af­ter Pres­i­dent Ali Bongo was pro­claimed win­ner of last week’s vote while main chal­lenger Jean Ping claimed vic­tory for him­self.

One of the two new vic­tims was a po­lice­man, the first mem­ber of the Gabonese se­cu­rity forces listed as killed in the vi­o­lence sparked by the an­nounce­ment on Wed­nes­day of Bongo’s vic­tory in last week­end’s elec­tion.

“I de­plore the death of a po­lice of­fi­cer who was shot in Oyem,” the main town in the north, Interior Min­is­ter Pa­come Moubelet-Boubeya told AFP.

The at­tack­ers, who shot the po­lice­man in the head, were ar­rested as they at­tempted to cross the bor­der with Equa­to­rial Guinea.

The interior min­is­ter added that, de­spite the on­go­ing vi­o­lence, “we are see­ing life re­turn­ing to Libreville”, with busi­nesses be­gin­ning to re­open their doors.

How­ever the Gabonese cap­i­tal has been with­out in­ter­net ac­cess since Wed­nes­day.

Ten­sion was also high in the eco­nomic cap­i­tal PortGen­til where a youth was shot dead by se­cu­rity forces overnight, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses.

“The par­ents wanted to march with the body up to the gov­ern­ment build­ing with many other peo­ple. They were dis­persed by se­cu­rity and de­fence forces,” one wit­ness told AFP.

Sev­eral res­i­dents said the death was just one of sev­eral in Port-Ben­til in re­cent days caused by the se­cu­rity forces.

“They shoot, they take the bod­ies away, we are trau­ma­tised,” one mother said.

Such claims have not been in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied, but ac­cord­ing to an AFP count the lat­est deaths bring the re­cent death toll to seven.

The arch­bishop of Libreville on Satur­day called on both the rul­ing party and the op­po­si­tion to avoid an “im­mi­nent cri­sis”.

Bongo was de­clared vic­to­ri­ous by a ra­zor-thin mar­gin of just un­der 6 000 votes, but his main chal­lenger Ping, a vet­eran diplo­mat and for­mer top African Union of­fi­cial, has in­sisted the vote was rigged and on Fri­day claimed vic­tory for him­self.

“The whole world knows who is pres­i­dent of the repub­lic, it’s me Jean Ping,” he said.

Ping is call­ing for a re­count at ev­ery polling sta­tion and has high­lighted the elec­tion re­sult in the Bongo fam­ily strong­hold of Up­per Ogooue, where of­fi­cial fig­ures showed the pres­i­dent won 90 per­cent of the votes case on 99 per­cent turnout.

The Gabonese au­thor­i­ties have cat­e­gor­i­cally re­fused his re­quest for a vote re­count, in­vok­ing the coun­try’s elec­toral law which in­cludes no such pro­ce­dure.

The post-vote vi­o­lence in this small but oil-rich cen­tral African na­tion has sparked in­ter­na­tional con­cern, with top diplo­mats call­ing for re­straint as rights groups raised the alarm over the use of “ex­ces­sive force”.

In a spe­cial ses­sion on Gabon late Thurs­day, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ex­pressed “deep con­cern” about the sit­u­a­tion, urg­ing all sides to “to re­frain from vi­o­lence or other provo­ca­tions”.

And Wash­ing­ton has urged all par­ties to work to­gether to “halt the slide to­wards fur­ther un­rest.”

Se­cu­rity forces stormed Ping’s HQ late on Wed­nes­day evening, af­ter the an­nounce­ment of Bongo’s vic­tory sparked ri­ots in the cap­i­tal dur­ing which the na­tional as­sem­bly was set ablaze.

Blood­stains, bul­let marks, bro­ken win­dows, smashed fur­ni­ture and doc­u­ments tossed all over the floor bear wit­ness to the at­tack.

Un­der a cam­paign poster promis­ing to pro­tect the peo­ple of Gabon from “need and fear”, a large patch of blood lay con­geal­ing on shiny white tiles.

“He was a lad of around 25 whom they shot through the win­dow,” ex­plained op­po­si­tion politi­cian Ful­bert May­ombo Mben­b­jan­goye as he es­corted jour­nal­ists late Fri­day around Ping’s head­quar­ters.

Across the coun­try, the un­rest has paral­ysed trans­porta­tion, with bread and other fresh foods in short sup­ply, the sit­u­a­tion fur­ther ag­gra­vated by wide­spread loot­ing. — AFP —

Pil­grims streamed into St Peter’s Square at the Vat­i­can from the early morn­ing. Reuters

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