Gabon's Oil Hub Tense After Disputed Vote



Security forces in Gabon continued to clash with opposition demonstrators following the announcement that the son of the country's long-time ruler has been elected president. The French oil firm Total has evacuated foreign workers from Port Gentil, at the center of the violence.

Interior Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou told French state radio that two people killed overnight in Port Gentil were looters shot by a home owner.

Rioters in Port Gentil burned the French consulate and looted nearby shops Thursday following the announcement that former defense minister Ali Ben Bongo won last Sunday's presidential election.

That violence brought an overnight curfew to Port Gentil which was repeated Friday and will continue, Ndongou says, "as long as necessary if calm does not prevail."

Prisoners in Port Gentil were broken out of jail and demonstrators attacked facilities of the French oil firm Total. Expatriate staff and their families have now been evacuated to the capital, Libreville, where Total says they will remain until it is safe to return to Port Gentil.

The French Foreign Ministry says French nationals elsewhere in Gabon should stay in their homes.

Opposition demonstrators are targeting French concerns because of the long relationship between French leaders and the 42-year-rule of Gabonese President Omar Bongo. His death in June raised expectations of change in Gabon. The election of his son in a vote that opposition candidates says was unfair has renewed allegations that Paris backed Ali Ben Bongo's candidacy.

The French Foreign Ministry says it was not involved in the campaign. It says Sunday's vote took place under "acceptable conditions" and losing candidates who want to contest the result should do so in Gabon's constitutional court.

Opposition leaders do intend to challenge a result that gave Bongo 42 percent of the vote. The electoral commission says former interior minister Andre Mba Obame and opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou each received about 25 percent.

Obame says the results are an "electoral coup." Mamboundou's party is calling on its supports to "resist" the outcome. Politicians allied with Mamboundou say he has gone into hiding after he was injured when police tear-gassed demonstrators following the results.

The African Union is calling on Gabonese to show "great restraint" and abstain from acts that might compromise peace and security.

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