Clashes broke out in the Gabonese capital after after President Ali Bongo was declared a winner of presidential elections.
Gabon’s opposition leader Jean Ping said on Thursday two people were killed and many injured when the presidential guard and police attacked his party’s headquarters overnight in the wake of an election held at the weekend.
Supporters of Gabon’s opposition leader Jean Ping clashed with security forces in Libreville, after incumbent President Ali Bongo was named the winner of a closely fought presidential election.
Ping called for international assistance to protect the population of the oil-producing state and said he had defeated President Ali Bongo in the election. Authorities declared Bongo the narrow winner of the poll on Wednesday.
Moments after the poll results were announced by the interior ministry on Wednesday, anti-government protesters shouting “Ali must go!” tried to storm the offices of the election commission, according to AFP news agency.
Security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to push several hundred protesters back.
Bongo won 49.80 percent of Saturday’s vote, against 48.23 percent for Ping, a narrow margin of only 5,594 votes of a total 627,805 registered voters.
Election commission members belonging to the opposition immediately denounced the result, with one commissioner for Ping’s party, Paul Marie Gondjout, saying the vote had been “stolen”.
“They say [Ping’s camp] they will not accept this result at all,” Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from inside the compound housing the electoral commission in Libreville, said.
“Protesters came right outside this compound; many of them lighting tyres and chanting anti-government songs,” our correspondent said.
“They were dispersed by the police,” adding, however, that explosions could be heard in the distance.
Earlier, clouds of smoke and tear gas could be seen over parts of the city where clashes were taking place.
“Jean Ping has been telling his supporters not to accept a vote that is not favourable to him … He is telling his people to defend their vote, to defend their choice,” Soi said.
“They say that they have been cheated.”
By nightfall, protesters vented their fury by setting fire to the parliament building, sending skyward a plume of flame and black smoke, witnesses and AFP correspondents said.
Fires were visible in other parts of Libreville and explosions were heard as protesters faced off against heavily armed security forces.
“The whole building is catching fire,” a man outside parliament told AFP.
Yet, the presidency denied the reported fire at the parliament, saying that protesters had lit bonfires around the building and they had been dispersed by police, according to Soi.
Witnessed also told The Associated Press news agency that some demonstrators vandalised a shopping centre and looted a bank. Protesters in several districts also looted and burned other buildings, as army helicopters flew overhead.