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Le projet sur les elections en Afrique: votre portail exclusif et credible d'information et de connaissance en ligne, qui couvre les élections à travers le continent
News
Date:23 Sep 2016
Gabon Braces for Violence on eve of election ruling

The scars from earlier violence in Gabon's palm-lined capital warn of what may lie ahead: the parliament building gutted by fire; the opposition headquarters riddled with bullet holes; shops looted and their windows smashed.

They are traces of the riots that erupted in Libreville after a disputed Aug. 27 election handed victory to President Ali Bongo, enabling him to extend his family's half-century in power in a result rival Jean Ping denounced as fraudulent.

A final court ruling that is expected on Friday represents Gabon's last chance of solving the dispute by constitutional means. And the Gabonese are bracing for a fresh explosion of violence if, as many fear, it fails to do so.

When Elvis Abagha didn't come home after attending an anti-government protest in Libreville, his elder brother Bekale became worried and he called several friends. None had any news.

Two weeks later, on Sept. 13, Bekale got a call from the morgue. Elvis' dead body was laid on a table, bloody where a bullet had pierced his chest. He never got an explanation.

"I was shocked and angry," he told Reuters, explaining why he had joined the opposition.

"If Ali Bongo wins, I will find another way to fight."

Ping says that between 50 and 100 were killed in clashes with police after Aug. 27; the government just six. Either way, many Gabonese feel the body count could be about to rise.

Oil workers are staying at home until after the ruling to protect their families, potentially jeopardising the central African country's 200,000 barrels-per-day output. [nL8N1BY1T8]

"WE WON'T LET THEM AGITATE"

Whenever opposition formed to the rule of Bongo's father, Omar Bongo, he proved adept at subduing it by using patronage from oil funds to buy off opponents. The strategy enabled him to stay in power for 42 years, until his death in 2009.

But dwindling revenues from lower production and prices has whittled away the family war chest, and falling living standards have triggered a desire for change in this small, central African country of 1.8 million people.

Gabon has a GDP per capita of $10,000 a year, making it one of Africa's richest, yet this is less in real terms than it was in the 1980s, and most is concentrated in the hands of elites.

With Ping digging in, chances for a settlement seem slim.

Ping wants a recount in the Haut-Ogooue province, a Bongo stronghold where the president won 95 percent of the votes on a 99.9 percent turnout. Any court decision that upholds these numbers is likely to be rejected by Ping.

On Thursday, people scrambled to buy food in supermarkets, the army erected checkpoints around the capital and security forces patrolled the streets in increased numbers.  

Source: Libreville (Reuters)


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