Angry protesters have set the Gabonese Parliament ablaze after incumbent President Ali Bongo was declared winner in what international observers called a fraudulent election.
Amidst all the tension, Ali Bongo has come forward to claim the election was “peaceful and transparent”.
It only took a few minutes for the announcement to sink in before several of Libreville’s poorer neighborhoods erupted in anger, with thousands of people taking to the streets to express their dismay.
The deep seated anger will not be unconnected to the fact that the nearly 50 year rule of the Bongo family looks set to continue.
In 2009, Bongo was declared winner of the election after his father’s death. In the ensuing clashes several people were killed, buildings looted and the French consulate in the economic capital Port Gentil was set ablaze.
As soon as Bongo’s victory in Saturday’s poll was announced on Wednesday, people took to the streets of the city’s slums, chanting “Ali must go”.
In Saturday’s vote, the turnout was 59.46 percent nationwide but soared to 99.93 percent in Haut-Ogooue, where President Ali Bongo won 95.5 percent of votes.
A member of the electoral commission, pleading anonymity said:
“It’s going to be difficult to get people to accept these results, we’ve never seen results like these, even during the father’s time.”
Opposition delegates in the electoral commission have vowed to fight for a recount.
Various parties including Bongos opponent at the pool – Jean Ping, the European Union, the United States and former colonial power France have called for voting figures from each of Gabon’s polling stations to be made public to ensure the credibility of overall result.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said:
“This will help give the people of Gabon as well as the international community confidence that the announced vote tallies are accurate.”
As helicopters flew overhead and smoke rose above poorer neighbourhoods, soldiers and police stopped traffic on the main highway where protesters braved tear gas to set tyres alight.
Protesters shouted, “Jean Ping president!” and “They stole the election.”
Jean Ping, a half Chinese career diplomat has rejected the results, and before they were announced already declared himself as winner.