Gabon opposition leaders’ death sparks riot | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Gabon opposition leaders’ death sparks riot

Posted: Apr 13, 2015 at 2:54 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Opposition supporters in Gabon rampaged through the streets of the capital, burning cars and setting fire to the embassy of Benin, following the death of a senior opposition leader on Sunday, a witness recounted.

Andre Mba Obame died in Yaounde, capital of neighbouring Cameroon, at around noon (1100 GMT), his National Union political party announced. He was 57 years old.

Obame served as an adviser to long time President Omar Bongo, eventually rising to the post of minister of the interior.

However, he broke with the ruling party to run for the presidency as an independent following Bongo’s death in 2009.

Though official results handed victory to the late leader’s son, Ali Bongo, Obame declared himself the winner, leading the authorities to accuse him of treason.

No cause of death was given in the statement from the National Union, which Obame joined not long after the 2009 election.

A Reuters witness who followed a group of supporters as they burned government service cars and attacked Benin’s embassy, said many accused the government of murdering Obame.

“Our leader, Andre Mba Obame, was poisoned by the regime and one thing is sure, we will avenge his death,” said Olgan Ebanega, a youth member of the National Union.

The embassy was gutted by the fire, the witness said.

“Everything will be done to find the perpetrators and those behind these criminal acts, because, according to initial information, they were committed by individuals following orders,” Interior Minister Guy Bertrand Mpangou said.

Some opposition figures have questioned Bongo’s origins, saying he is Nigerian and therefore ineligible to be president. The claim is rejected by his supporters.

They also accuse his Chief of Staff, Maixent Accrombessi, of being from Benin, which is why the embassy was attacked, opposition supporters said.

Obame served as Executive Secretary of the National Union, though the government outlawed the party two years after the disputed polls.

“I think that the Gabonese people know that they’ve lost the true president elected in 2009 in unclear conditions,” National Union spokesman, François Ondo Edou, told Reuters.

The ban on the National Union was lifted in February, clearing the way for the party to put forward a candidate against Bongo in next year’s election.

Obame had been frequently absent from the central African oil-producing nation for health reasons, and it had not been clear who would lead the party.

Former African Union head, Jean Ping, is currently the main opposition figure although recent torture charges brought against him have clouded his political future.

Bongo has faced mounting criticism in recent months over a range of grievances and trade union disputes, leading to violent demonstrations in December.