TIME Gabon

Gabon’s Opposition Says Its Party Headquarters Was Attacked After Disputed Election

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Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images The flash of an explosion is pictured amid flames and smoke billowing from the National Assembly building in Libreville after it was set ablaze on August 31, 2016.

A night of violence followed the re-election of President Ali Bongo

(LIBREVILLE, Gabon) — Gabon’s presidential guard attacked the opposition party headquarters overnight, killing one person and injuring at least 20, opposition representatives said Thursday following protests against the re-election of the Central African country’s president.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba beat opposition candidate Jean Ping by a slim margin, setting the stage for unrest.

Around 1 a.m. Thursday, soldiers in green berets known as the presidential guard shot live rounds during an attack on Ping’s opposition headquarters, injuring at least 20 people, according to Paul Marie Gondjout, an opposition electoral representative who was there.

Ping’s campaign director, Rene Ndemezo’o Obiang, said one person was killed. Ping was not in the building.

A resident said government forces also attacked the RTN opposition radio and television station.

State television reported that Bongo’s ministers will meet Thursday morning.

Before the attack on the opposition headquarters, police fired tear gas at hundreds of opposition demonstrators in the capital, Libreville, who responded by setting fire to cars and debris in front of the National Assembly. Flames and smoke rose in the night sky.

Witnesses said demonstrators in several other districts vandalized a mall, looted a bank and burned buildings, including one belonging to the vice prime minister.

Looting and clashes also followed Bongo’s previous election win in 2009, when he came to power after the death of his father, longtime ruler Omar Bongo.

Bongo won this election with 49.8 percent of the vote, while Ping had 48.23 percent. The constitutional court must finalize provisional results, which came a day later than expected.

European Union observers criticized what they called a “lack of transparency,” and the EU called for electoral officials to publish results from all polling stations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged political leaders and their supporters “to refrain from further acts that could undermine the peace and stability of the country.” He also called on security forces to exercise restraint.

 

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