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Gabon Opposition Frustrated With Travel Ban

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  • Desire Ename, Publisher of Gabon’s independent Echos Dunord newspaper, Spoke With Clottey

Gabon opposition parties are demanding an end to what they describe as intimidation after their leaders were barred from leaving the country. 

The interior ministry announced the travel ban for all opposition leaders after post-election violence engulfed the oil-city of Port-Gentil.

The electoral commission declared Ali Ben Bongo, winner of the August 30th presidential election to succeed his father who ruled Gabon for more than four decades.

But opposition supporters dismissed the election result as a charade, leading to violent protests that left several dead and destroyed properties. 

Desire Ename, publisher of Gabon's independent Echos Dunord newspaper said there are indications that the government blames the opposition for the violence.

"It is information we got this morning that most opponents and former candidates should not leave the country for investigation reasons. This is what the ministry of interior said today," Ename said.

He said a leading opposition leader was prevented from leaving the country.

"Mr. Mba Abessole (presidential candidate) wanted to go to Abidjan, Ivory Coast and he was stopped at the airport by police officers. And it is the police officers who made him (aware) that he had no permission to leave the country," he said.

Ename said the government is probing the circumstances that led to the post-election violence in oil-rich Port Gentil.

"There is an investigation on what happened in Port Gentil," Ename said.

He said there are indications the government suspects the opposition was behind the violence.

"This is what they (government) are trying to show because some members of the party in power during the different (protests), they said it in certain ways. They put a link between what happened in Port Gentil… to the former opposition candidates," he said.

Ename said residents of the oil-rich city are noted for their protests of unfair elections.

"What happened in Port Gentil was a spontaneous reaction from the population who thought that the result of the election was not fair at all," Ename said.

He said Port Gentil is now reported calm following violent protesters' clashes with security forces over the August 30th vote.

Angry protesters went on a rampage, reportedly torching a police station, markets, and the French Consulate, shortly after the electoral commission declared Ali Ben Bongo winner of the election.

The government says that more than 311 people have so far been arrested in connection with the protests.                          

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