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EU calls for calm as Gabon descends into ‘deep crisis’

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherin
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherin

Brussels, Belgium | AFP | 

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for all sides in Gabon to reject violence as the country descends into chaos following presidential elections.

“The official announcement of results has plunged Gabon into a deep crisis,” Mogherini said in a statement. “It is important for all parties to reject violence and call for calm.”

More than 200 people have been arrested for looting in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, the police chief said Thursday.

“We have arrested more than 200 looters since last night,” national police chief Jean-Thierry Oye Zue told AFP. “Looting is currently continuing in the poorer districts.”

Earlier, Gabon security forces attempted to storm the opposition headquarters early Thursday, leaving several people injured, party leaders said, hours after President Ali Bongo claimed victory in contested polls.

“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 opposition presidential candidate Jean 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. (read story here)

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.

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