Gabon opposition gathers to await poll outcome


Around 1,000 opposition supporters gathered in Gabon’s capital on Wednesday to await the outcome of a presidential election in which three rival candidates are claiming victory.

Backers of Pierre Mamboundou, who is disputing Sunday’s poll result alongside the son of late President Omar Bongo and a third candidate, gathered peacefully in a square near the heavily-guarded building of the election commission.

A Reuters witness said anti-riot police were on hand while a helicopter hovered overhead. Some of the supporters said they were waiting to ensure their candidate’s victory was not stolen.

“It could run until nine or ten (this evening). Then we will call you for the results,” Ghilaine Mavoungou, press attache for Gabon’s election commission, said as commission officials met.

Ali Ben Bongo, son of the late president and a ruling party stalwart, is favourite to win and ensure continuity in a country that has secured years of foreign investment in its oil industry but largely failed to improve the lives of most citizens.

Ben Bongo’s claims of victory have been matched by rivals Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister who resigned in July, and Mamboundou, one of the few rival candidates with no history of ties to Bongo.

Gabon’s election commission has rejected all unofficial projections being put out by rival camps and observers have called on the country’s politicians and population to wait until the results are officially announced.

“CALMER THAN YESTERDAY”

Analysts have not said there is immediate cause for concern in the aftermath of the poll but they are urging investors to remain cautious until the results of the polls are confirmed.

Libreville residents said the situation was broadly calm. “The situation is calmer than yesterday. Things have got better since yesterday,” said Esteban Moueli.

There were slightly fewer people in town than on a usual work day. Riot police were deployed in some locations while republican guard soldiers patrolled parts of the city centre.

Security forces had already deployed to strategic locations and opposition strongholds on Tuesday, creating tension in the seaside capital until the interior ministry issued a statement aimed at reassuring people there was no imminent threat.

Omar Bongo’s death in June, aged 73, ended nearly 42 years of rule that brought stability to Gabon but also allegations that he lavished petrodollars on family and friends rather than using them to alleviate still widespread poverty.

Reuters.com

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