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  • on 03.09.2009
  • at 06:09 PM
  • by Staff

Gabon: riots erupt after electoral results 0

Soldiers clashed with opposition supporters in the streets of Gabon’s capital on Thursday after Ali Ben Bongo, son of long-time ruler Omar Bongo, was declared the winner of a disputed presidential election, as Reuters reported.

A rival candidate was wounded in the unrest in Libreville, while French media reported rioting in Port Gentil city in the central African nation’s oil zone.

Ex-defence minister Ben Bongo, 50, scored 41.73 percent of the vote, the interior ministry announced, ahead of ex-interior minister Andre Mba Obame and Pierre Mamboundou, both of whom disputed results that gave them around 25 percent each.

We condemn these results. It is a constitutional coup d’etat,” said Richard Mombo, secretary general of veteran opposition figure Mamboundou’s Union of Gabonese People (UPG) party.

Afronline interviewed Marc Ona Essangui, President of Brainforest, on the current post election situation in the country.

Afronline: What is the current situation in Libreville?

Marc Ona Essangui: the Gabonese capital is besieged and tension is high. We feel that everything could fall at any moment. There are barricades everywhere, shops and restaurants are closed and cars have been sent on fire in the suburbs.

The army, which has already assaulted this morning activists who follow Pierre Manboundou and André Mba Obame, is patrolling the main streets of the city. Yesterday evening they met in front of headquarters of the Independent Electoral Commission – Cénap – to obstacle the official proclamation of Ali Bongo’s victory. They talk about wounded people.

Afronline: What can happen now?

Marc Ona Essangui: Here in Libreville there are many voices talking about a possible modification of the results in favour of the son of the ex President Omar Bongo. Unfortunately, the Bongo clan is showing that they will not stop at anything to hang on to their privileges. The precipitate announcement of this victory could come at a high cost to our country. In Port-Gentil, a historical base for opposition and the economic capital of the country, protests were even stronger.

The central prison and the French consulate have been set on fire. Young opponents ask for revenge against Ali Bongo and France, accused to sustain Ali. We are on the verge of chaos.

Afronline: With such an unstable political climate, what will Gabonese civil society do?

Marc Ona Essangui:
We are very worried. I think that a re-calculation is necessary. They talk about massive gerrymandering made by the Bongo clan. If you look at the reports of the Independent Electoral Commission the candidate of the Gabonese Democratic Party is in the third position. Everybody knows it, but Ali Bongo has used his position as Minister of Defence and his enormous funds to false this election. Declaring your victory when you have lost is dishonour for democracy and the Commission, who is charged to guarantee a free and transparent electoral process.

Afronline: And what about his opponents?

Marc Ona Essangui: During the last days, they talked insistently of a French wiliness to impose a National unity government, forcing Mandounbou e Mba Obame to associate with Bongo in the case of his victory. But Obame refused. Last night they negotiated intensely in the Commission’s headquarter to find a solution, but it was in vain.

The Gabonese people’s worst fears were right: the vote was a farce. Now, it’s up to Bongo to act as a responsible political leader. Gabonese society has the sensation of being hold as a hostage again, and today what we want is freedom and transparency.

By Joshua Massarenti – Afronline

Influent member of civil society, Mr. Essangui, 46 years-old, is President of Brainforest, a NGO committed to defending tropical forest and in fighting public powers’ rampant corruption in Gabon. Last April his fights for the environment were rewarded with the Goldman Prize 2009, given in his hands by the former U.S. vice President, Al Gore.

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