Gabon Election Update: Violence as Bongo is Declared Winner

September 3, 2009

Gabon election protests
After the official results of the presidential elections, unrest broke out in Gabon's capital. (AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO)

The results of Gabon’s presidential election, held this past Sunday, were officially announced  today, as the Ministry of the Interior proclaimed Ali Ben Bongo the winner with 42% of the vote. As we reported on Tuesday on our weekly Human Rights Flashpoints blog, all three leading candidates for the Gabon presidency – Bongo, Pierre Mamboundou, and Andre Mba Obame – had proclaimed they had won the election before official results were announced. Moreover, tensions had been rising in Gabon since Sunday’s election, with troops being stationed at several key locations in the capital, Libreville, and with widespread accusations of election fraud by opposition candidates.

Since the election results this morning, leading news sources have reported clashes between police and supporters of the opposition candidates. According to the BBC, the police have been using teargas and batons against protesters in Libreville. Most worrisome are reports that opposition candidates Pierre Mamboundou and Andre Mba Obame were among the thousands of protesters wounded by the police’s indiscriminate use of force.

Reuters also reports that the French consulate in Port Gentil, an oil city in Gabon, was torched by protesters. France is widely considered to be supporting the proclaimed winner of the election, Ali Ben Bongo, who is the son of Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo. Bongo had ruled Gabon for the past 41 years and had been a close ally of France, its former colonial ruler. Critics argue that the poll was fixed in order to ensure a dynastic succession and some have called the situation a coup d’état.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has been in touch with all three candidates, has confirmed that Mamboundou had been wounded.  According to the French daily Le Monde, Kouchner also advised its 10,000 citizens living in Gabon to stay at home and assured that France was prepared to protect its citizens if the situation deteriorated. France keeps close to 1,000 troops on a permanent military base in Gabon.

Juliette Rousselot contributed to this post.