/ 3 September 2009

Protesters dispersed, Gabon poll result blocked

Security forces in Gabon used tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters outside the election commission on Thursday as the central African oil-producer awaited results from a disputed poll.

Helicopters hovered above the capital and soldiers from the republican guard stepped up patrols after Gabon’s election commission said it was divided over how to deal with results of an election that three candidates claim to have won.

Ali Ben Bongo, son of the late president, is favourite to win and ensure continuity for investors, but he faces challenges from former interior minister Andre Mba Obame and veteran opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou.

Witnesses said supporters of Mamboundou fled a square in downtown Libreville where they had staged an overnight sit-in after police began spraying tear gas at them.

Rene Aboghe Ella, head of the election of Gabon’s election commission, told state television its members were split over whether the body had the authority to investigate results that had been sent to it by polling stations.

”This is not the commission’s job. We are only meant to centralise and add up the results,” he was quoted as saying by Radio France International.

Jean-Francois Ndongou, Gabon’s acting interior minister, was due to speak on state television later in the morning.

Ali Ben Bongo’s rivals have said they feared that the official results were being massaged to ensure a dynastic succession from father to son, an accusation the ex-defence minister has denied. — Reuters