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Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 16:24 UK

Eyewitness: 'Security forces all around'

Gabonese police patrol the streets of the capital, Libreville

French business manager Alex Maari, 26, spoke to the BBC from his home in Gabon's second city, Port Gentil, where violent clashes followed the announcement that the ruling party's Ali Bongo had won the election.

They opened up the prisons, they released all the prisoners, they torched it, set fire to it and started to ransack the town. Violence broke out.

I am looking out a window and there's a car that has been stopped and there are about 10 soldiers standing around with their guns
Alex Maari, Port Gentil

That was yesterday when the ministry of the interior began to release the results.

I live right opposite the main court and I work in the main avenue and I have a view on the palace of the president.

I think it was a mixture of prisoners as well as residents.

Port Gentil is the heartland of the opposition.

Anti-French feeling

It is well known that although there is a presidential palace here, [the late former president] Omar Bongo never actually slept here from fear of being murdered in the night.

ALI BEN BONGO
Ali Ben Bongo
Born in 1959 in Brazzaville, his mother is Gabonese singer and musician Patience Dabany
Studied at Sorbonne in Paris before entering politics in 1981
Became foreign affairs minister in 1989 - forced to quit in 1991 because he was too young
Organised pop-star Michael Jackson's visit to Gabon in 1992
Served as defence minister 1999-2009
Source: Ali Ben Bongo's website

He barely ever came to Port Gentil and if he did, he made sure he slept in an undisclosed location.

They were angry because they hadn't heard the final results, yet French television said the president was Ali Ben Bongo. There was an anti-French, anti-white feeling coming out as well.

We originally thought they would attack the presidential palace, the courts, that sort of thing but it turned out that they were really trying to attack French establishments like Total - the main oil company here. They set fire to one of their buildings.

They set fire to the French consulate and so all French citizens were told to stay indoors because we heard them chanting, "We're looking for whites. We're going to kill the whites."

There was about 20 security people, maybe soldiers and policemen, all wearing riot gear. They had tear gas. They shot tear gas into the street but they were quickly overwhelmed, there were probably between one and two thousand rioters. They just kept going through, they just went straight through, past the security forces.

But by evening, some more security forces were sent from Libreville, the capital, by boat to Port Gentil, because Port Gentil is an island.

Apparently 200 arrests were made in the night. But I don't know where those arrested were put because the prisons have been opened and burnt.

We heard some gun fire [overnight] and there was smoke.

'Shops burnt'

This morning when I woke up I could see smoke in the distance. I guess there were some fires but I'm not sure what was on fire.

There are security forces all around the streets.

Gabon map

Right opposite I can see the main Gabonese bank here, BGD, and there are four soldiers standing outside. Military trucks are driving by quite regularly.

The security forces are definitely, definitely here.

I went outside earlier to check up on the office and see if everything is OK and I took my jeep and I quickly went to have a look. I only spent about five, 10 minutes.

I could see the extent of the damage in town: Fires had broken out in shops, windows were smashed, all the petrol stations were smashed.

Everyone is staying indoors.

But now I am looking out of a window and there's a car that has been stopped and there are about 10 soldiers standing around with their guns. I'm not quite sure who the car belongs to or what's going on.

There's no-one else on the streets at all.




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SEE ALSO
Gabon rampage after poll result
03 Sep 09 |  Africa
Police disperse Gabon opposition
03 Sep 09 |  Africa
Country profile: Gabon
26 Jan 11 |  Country profiles

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