Security forces in Gabon stormed the headquarters of the official opposition overnight (1 September), after the parliament building in Libreville was set on fire, following the announcement that incumbent President Ali Bongo had narrowly won the country’s disputed election.
There was unrest and clashes with riot police in the capital following the announcement, whilst pictures showed the parliament building on fire.
In apparent retaliation, security forces stormed the offices of losing opponent Jean Pingat around 1am local time, according to the opposition, with two people killed, according to the BBC.
Prior to the outbreak of violence, the EU had made clear its dissatisfaction with the presidential election process, calling for results of all polling stations to be made public, and calling for restraint, in a vote which Brussels had already declared “not transparent.”
“They attacked around 1:00 am (0000 GMT). It is the republican guard. They were bombarding with helicopters and then they attacked on the ground. There are 19 people injured, some of them very seriously,” said Ping, who was not at the party headquarters himself.
The president of the opposition National Union party, Zacharie Myboto, who was inside the besieged building, said security forces were hurling tear gas canisters and had opened fire.
“For nearly an hour the building has been surrounded. They want to enter the building… it is extremely violent,” he said.
A government spokesman said security forces had stormed the opposition headquarters to catch “criminals” who had earlier set fire to the parliament building as anti-government protests swept the capital Libreville.
“Armed people who set fire to the parliament had gathered at Jean Ping’s headquarters along with hundreds of looters and thugs… they were not political protesters but criminals,” said Alain-Claude Bilie-By-Nze.
Results of the presidential election were announced Wednesday afternoon, handing Bongo his second term by a thin margin over a veteran diplomat and former top African Union official Ping.
Angry protesters took to the streets shortly after the announcement, accusing the government of stealing the election.
They set fire to parliament and clashed with heavily armed security forces, leaving at least six injured.
The opposition has described the election as fraudulent and called for voting figures from each of Gabon’s polling stations to be made public to ensure the credibility of overall result – a demand echoed by the United States and European Union.
In a statement issued just before the unrest broke out, EU foreign affair chief Federica Mogherini said, “The confidence of the Gabonese in the legitimacy of their new president will be enhanced by the publication of detailed results.
“In this regard, the EU reiterates the call made yesterday by the observer-in-chief of the Electoral Observation Mission of the EU to publish results by polling station.
“We invite all stakeholders to exercise restraint, work to maintain civil peace in the post-electoral context and make use of legal channels to resolve any dispute.”