By Gerauds Wilfried Obangome and Matthew Mpoke Bigg
Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping said on Thursday two people were killed and many wounded when the presidential guard and police attacked his party’s headquarters overnight after an election narrowly won by President Ali Bongo.
Ping called for international assistance to protect the population of the oil-producing state and said Saturday’s election was stolen by Bongo, who was declared the winner on Wednesday.
The result gives the president a further seven years in power in the country of 1.8 million people. Bongo took power in 2009 on the death of his father, who had ruled for 42 years.
Opposition supporters greeted the election result with anger. Demonstrators in the capital Libreville clashed with police and set part of the parliament building on fire.
Police also fired teargas in clashes with around 100 opposition supporters, according to a Reuters witness.
Spokesmen for the police and the presidential guard were not immediately available for comment.
“Everybody knows that I won the election,” Ping said in a telephone interview, adding that the electoral commission’s figures were based on false documents.
“The (Bongo) family are repeating same scenario for almost half a century. The opposition can win the elections but they have never had access to power… We need assistance from the rest of the world to protect the population of Gabon from a clan of mercenaries, a rogue state,” he said.
France, the United States and the European Union all urged calm and called upon Gabonese authorities to release the results of individual polling stations for greater transparency, while the United Nations also urged restraint.
Bongo won 49.80 percent of votes against 48.23 percent for Ping, on a turnout of 59.46 percent, according to results given region by region by Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya.
“This victory by such a tight score obliges … each of us to respect the verdict of the ballot box and our institutions,” Bongo said in the text of a victory speech distributed to reporters.
Ping, a political insider who has served as foreign minister and African Union Commission chairman, was a close ally of the late president and fathered two children with his daughter.
His avenue for contesting the result appeared uncertain. Elections in Africa are frequently disputed but it is unusual for results to be overturned.
Ping said he was not calling on his supporters to protest because they were already under so much pressure from authorities. He said he feared arms would be planted in his party headquarters and he could be arrested as a result.
There was no independent confirmation of events at the headquarters.
“LACK OF TRANSPARENCY”
Voting was peaceful but the election followed a bitter campaign in which both sides traded accusations of fraud. Several Libreville residents said social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were not functioning.
An EU observer mission criticised a “lack of transparency” among institutions running the election and said Bongo had benefited from preferential access to money and the media.
Former colonial ruler France’s foreign ministry said the way in which the results were announced was a source of concern.
“We think it is necessary to publish the results of all the polling stations. The credibility of the election as well as Gabon’s international reputation are at stake,” it said.
The statement was echoed by the U.S. Department of State, which urged all sides to “temper their rhetoric and encourage their supporters to remain calm”. It also called upon Gabon’s security forces to exercise restraint.
A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he called “on all political leaders to address their differences peacefully and to address any disputes they may have through existing constitutional and legal channels”.