By CIA – CIA World Factbook, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=610267
For the past week, Gabon has been facing a major political crisis, sparked by disputed poll results. According to Reuters, incumbent President Ali Bongo was reported to have won with 49.80 percent of the vote. Challenger Jean Ping, in those official polls, had just missed the mark with 48.23 percent. Ping and his allies immediately began to protest the results, and Ping declared himself President last Friday (Reuters). They argue the result was rigged (Frontera News). The European Union’s election observers also have noted anomalies (La Jeune Afrique). Bongo has served as President since 2009, when he came into power following the death of his father, the previous President. The opposition candidate, Ping, once represented Gabon as a diplomat, including service as Chair of the African Union Commission (an interesting piece on his background is online at The Star). The week’s protests have been violent, resulting in a number of deaths (estimates vary widely, but most are well under 100) and over 1000 arrests (Reuters). The National Assembly building was set on fire last week (BBC) and there were reports of looting (Reuters). Global Voices has a useful roundup of some of these events and early reactions.
The seriousness of the crisis has attracted the attention of the international community. The US, EU, France (which has economic interests in this former colony) and others have urged transparency with the election results (Reuters). Today (September 6), the African Union announced its intention to act as mediator. Chad’s President Idriss Deby is expected to lead talks (Reuters).