Gabon capital smoulders after night of election violence

Thursday September 01 2016

A supporter of Gabonese opposition leader Jean Ping prays in front of security forces blocking a demonstration trying to reach the electoral commission in Libreville on August 31, 2016. A shopping mall was also sent on fire. PHOTO | AFP



The swankiest street in Gabon's capital was Thursday littered with the smouldering detritus of a night of election riots.

On Boulevard Triomphal smoking barricades, torched buildings and blackened car chassis lay in testament to the wave of anger that swept over the city after Wednesday's announcement that President Ali Bongo had been re-elected by the slimmest of margins.

Among the many important buildings on this boulevard is the national assembly, which was set ablaze by protestors who also managed to break down the building's massive front door.

Many of parliament's windows burst in the heat of the fire, the guardhouse was burned to ashes and all vehicles in the car park reduced to shells.

On Thursday, police used tear gas to prevent crowds gathering outside parliament and continued to detain people coming out of the building.


Very similar damage was done to the nearby office of the pro-government daily Union newspaper, which did not publish on Thursday.

A shopping mall was also sent on fire.

Down the road lies the headquarters of opposition candidate Jean Ping, who has rejected the results of Saturday's poll as fraudulent.

Security forces stormed the HQ in the early hours of Thursday. Ping said two people were killed and 19 injured.

A Red Cross worker later said one of the injured, who had been taken to hospital later died.

Many makeshift roadblocks fashioned by protestors from tree trunks, rubble and furniture continued to smoulder Thursday.

Shops ravaged by looters and more torched cars on Democracy Roundabout, at the end of the boulevard, showed that it suffered the worst of the violence.

Soldiers were deployed at a fuel station to deter further looting.

After the announcement that Bongo had won 49.8 per cent of the vote, fewer than 6,000 ballots more than Ping, thousands of people took to the streets to accuse the government of stealing the election.

Police said more than 200 people had been arrested for looting.