/ 7 September 2009

Troops restore order in restive Gabon city

Gabon security forces patrolled the streets of second city Port Gentil on Monday, with some civilian traffic returning after post-election violence there killed at least three people.

Gabon’s economic hub has been gripped with violence since Ali Bongo was on Thursday declared president, succeeding his father who ruled for 41 years, with protesters rioting and looting despite a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

No violent incidents were reported overnight, with taxis and other vehicles driving around the town centre where some pharmacies and shops that had not been looted also reopened, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported.

Fearful Port Gentil inhabitants have been fleeing by canoe, with flights from the peninsular seaport suspended.

Interior Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou said on Sunday that the government could ask for emergency powers and impose a state of siege on the town.

But Prime Minister Paul Biyoghe Mba played down the need for emergency measures, despite witnesses saying there may be more dead on Port Gentil’s streets.

”It is possible that, today or tomorrow, the curfew will be lifted. Therefore, we are very, very far from a state of siege,” Biyoghe Mba said on Sunday.

Bongo has appealed for calm and urged his rivals who allege election fraud to take their grievances to court. — Sapa-AFP