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Curfew, Internet Shutdown As Gabon’s Election Ends



Curfew, Internet Shutdown As Gabon’s Election Ends

Every election in Gabon since the reintroduction of a multi-party system in 1990 has been marred by violence

Gabon’s government has implemented a nationwide curfew and disconnected internet access on Saturday evening as the conclusion of major national elections was underway.

Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, the Communications Minister of the Central African nation, announced on state television that a nightly curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. would be in effect. He also indicated that internet access was being restricted indefinitely due to concerns about potential violence and the dissemination of false information.

This announcement followed the casting of votes by citizens to select new local leaders, national legislators, and the country’s next president.

The incumbent President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was in pursuit of a third consecutive seven-year term, aiming to uphold a political dynasty of 55 years. Bongo rose to power in 2009 after the passing of his father, Omar Bongo, who governed the nation for 41 years.

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Bongo, aged 64, secured his current term in office by a slim margin in 2016 amidst episodes of violent protests. In the current year, the opposition coalesced in support of his primary contender, economics professor Albert Ondo Ossa, just one week prior to the elections held on Saturday.

Approximately 847,000 individuals were eligible to participate in the balloting on Saturday. In the capital city of Gabon, Libreville, voters lamented the delayed opening of polling stations. Although the voting was scheduled to commence in the morning, a considerable number of polling locations remained closed as of 2 p.m.

Ballack Obame, a former student leader, expressed, “I’ve finally voted. I’ve been here since 6 a.m. It was at 12 noon that I was able to vote, because the polling station opened at 11 a.m.” Another voter, Théophile Obiang, a pensioner, commented, “I’ve never seen an election in Gabon that doesn’t start before 10 o’clock. It’s really sad. I’m going home.”

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No official explanations were provided for the delays or for the timing of result announcements.

Paulette Missambo, who withdrew from the presidential race in favor of independent candidate Ossa, emphasized, “Voters must benefit from the 10-hour period provided for by electoral law.”

Ossa’s campaign is centered around breaking free from the existing status quo in Gabon. He pledged that if elected, he would dissolve the National Assembly, revise the electoral boundaries, and orchestrate a fresh legislative election, with the objective of forming a government dedicated to tackling economic inequality.

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“I’m not afraid of (President Bongo),” Ossa declared after casting his vote at a school in Libreville on Saturday afternoon.

Every election in Gabon since the reintroduction of a multi-party system in 1990 has been marred by violence. After the 2016 elections, clashes between government forces and demonstrators resulted in four official casualties, although the opposition claimed the actual toll was much higher.

Anticipating potential post-election violence, many residents of the capital chose to visit family in other parts of the country or exit Gabon entirely. Others stockpiled food supplies or bolstered security measures in their residences.

Buhari Olanrewaju Ahmed, a seasoned investigative journalist and climate/environmental reporter with a decade of experience, unravels complex issues and amplifies critical voices. His in-depth investigative work and insightful reporting have earned him recognition as a trusted source of information. Ahmed's unwavering commitment to journalism and exceptional storytelling prowess make him a standout figure in investigative journalism. His work drives meaningful conversations, influences policy decisions, and inspires collective efforts toward a sustainable future.

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