Hundreds of military and police forces have been deployed in Gabon’s capital of Libreville to deal with persisting riots after a disputed presidential poll in which incumbent President Ali Bongo claimed victory.
The Friday riots took place as the Central African country’s opposition leader Jean Ping also declared himself the rightful president and demanded a vote recount days after Bongo was declared the winner of last Saturday’s election that triggered the deadly riots.
"I am the president," Ping said at a press conference at his residence in Libreville late Friday, calling for a recount from every polling station and claiming that the results announced by the election commission were rigged.
The violence originally erupted across Gabon on Wednesday after Bongo, who was first elected in 2009 following the death of his father Omar – the country’s president for 42 years – was declared victorious by a slim margin.
In the 48 hours since the results of the August 24 election were announced massive crowds of angry supporters of Ping have taken to the streets.
Five people have died so far during the unrest, said Bongo’s spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze on Friday. As many as 1,100 arrests were also made by Thursday, according to Gabon’s Interior Minister Pacome Maubelet Boubeya.
Soldiers were positioned at crossroads on Friday and the elite Republican Guard ensured security near the presidential palace. Riot police were also deployed on the streets.
This is while a group of Ping’s supporters remained inside his headquarters on Friday, surrounded by security forces, two days after the opposition leader said the building was attacked by government soldiers, killing two people.
The development came as France, the US and the European Union called on Gabonese officials to release the results of individual polling stations, a request rejected by Bongo’s spokesman.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault repeated the call for more transparency during a televised interview on Friday, but ruled out an intervention in Gabon, which is home to 14,000 French citizens.
France has had a military base in Gabon since the country’s independence in 1960 with 450 troops currently stationed there, according to the French defense ministry.
France intervened in the Ivory Coast in 2011 under a UN mandate in a bid to oust then-president Laurent Gbagbo after he refused to accept defeat in a disputed election.
More recently Paris has also intervened in other African nations, including Libya, Mali and Central African Republic.