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Mass arrests in Gabon post-vote violence

September 1, 2016

Authorities in the West African nation have confirmed that several police and 'probably' civilians died in a night of post-election rioting. More than 1,000 people were detained in connection with the violence.

Gabun Libreville Ausschreitungen nach Wahlen
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Longari

Some 1,000 people were arrested in Gabon after a rash of post-election violence, the country's interior minister said on Thursday. There has been widespread unrest after incumbent President Ali Bongo claimed victors from Sunday's polls, extending his family's nearly 50-year political dynasty.

"In (the capital) Libreville there were between 600 and 800 arrests, and between 200 and 300 in the rest of the country," minister Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya told a press conference.

Protesters set fire to the parliament building and clashed with security forces on Wednesday after Bongo declared victory over opposition candidate Jean Ping by a margin of just 5,594 votes. The results prompted the EU observer mission for the vote has criticized the "lack of transparency" in the reported poll numbers.

Ping has said that his headquarters were attacked in retaliation for the parliament fire on Thursday, and that two people were killed and 19 injured in the raid.

"Everybody knows that I won the election," the opposition candidate told Reuters news agency, before accusing the Bongo family of "half a century" of electoral fraud.

Ping has since taken refuge at an undisclosed location, but one European diplomat has confirmed that he is safe.

Gabun Libreville Brand im Parlament
The parliament building burned as rioting and looting swept across Gabon overnightImage: Getty Images/AFP/M. Longari

Police and civilians killed

Police chief Jean-Thierry Oye Zue told reporters that six of his officers had died in the post-vote riots and confirmed that there were "very probably" civilian casualties considering the "violence with which they attacked us."

French President Francois Hollande called for "restraint and calm on all sides" as internet communications remained dark across the country and security forces sealed off the downtown area of Libreville.

"Democracy doesn't sit well with an attack on parliament," said Bongo, as the government building sat with its facade blackened and windows smashed. The 57-year-old strongman has ruled Gabon since his father died in 2009, who himself had been in power since 1967.

Gabon had been uneasy ahead of the vote, with the falling price of oil leading to an economic slump that had already helped sow the seeds of discord.

es/kms (AFP, Reuters)