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Saturday, September 5, 2009

New post-poll violence in Gabon

Gabonese soldier and resident after post-election violence
Gabonese police broke up rioting

Looting and violence has continued in Gabon's second city, Port Gentil, with buildings being set on fire and gunshots heard, reports say.

The violence erupted on Thursday over presidential election results, and flared again late on Friday. French news agency AFP said two people died.

For a second day the office of French oil company Total and the French consulate were set alight, AFP said.

A night-time curfew was imposed after Ali Ben Bongo was declared the winner.

Before the curfew was imposed on Thursday, opposition supporters had set fire to the consulate in Port Gentil, accusing France of helping to rig the election.

Ali Ben Bongo
Born in 1959 in Brazzaville, his mother is Gabonese singer and musician Patience Dabany
Studied at Sorbonne in Paris before entering politics in 1981
Became foreign affairs minister in 1989 - forced to quit in 1991 because he was too young
Organised pop-star Michael Jackson's visit to Gabon in 1992
Served as defence minister 1999-2009
Source: Ali Ben Bongo's website

Under previous leader Omar Bongo, Gabon retained close ties with France, its former colonial power.

On Friday afternoon, police used tear gas to break up a gathering of hundreds of looters and residents in the city centre, who had gathered to complain about damage inflicted during Thursday's rioting, AFP reported.

Service stations were destroyed and shops pillaged, leading to 50 arrests overnight, police were reported as saying.

The presidential election was held after the death of Ali's father, who had ruled for 41 years.

France has about 1,000 troops in the country and has advised its 10,000 citizens to stay indoors.

Amid the unrest, Ali Ben Bongo pledged to be a uniting force for the oil-rich nation.

He was widely tipped to succeed his father, who died in June.

Gabon is sub-Saharan Africa's fourth biggest oil producer and Africa's second biggest wood exporter, although most of its 1.4 million people live in poverty.


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