Protests, arrests after Gabon election fraud allegations

LIBREVILLE, Gabon, Sept. 1 (UPI) — At least three people have died and more than 1,000 people have been arrested in the violence following the re-election of Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the country’s interior minister said.

The U.S. State Department has asked for calm on all sides after a night of violent demonstrations, in which the National Assembly and the other buildings were set on fire was followed by heavily patrolled streets in the capitol Libreville on Thursday.

“We deplore the escalation of violence” following the release of provisional election results by the government, spokesman John Kirby said Thursday. “We call upon the security forces to respect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Gabonese citizens and of all residents of Gabon.”

Ondimba beat former chairman of the African Union Jean Ping 49.8 percent to 48.2 percent, after which Ping accused the incumbent of election fraud, NPR reported.

A military helicopter bombed Ping’s headquarters and Ping has reportedly since gone into hiding.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence, “In particular the arson attacks and disproportionate response of security agencies that has led to unfortunate loss of life and property,” he said in a statement.

Ondimba came to power following the death of his father Omar Bongo in 2009, who held the presidency for 42 years.

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