Gabon cuts internet, imposes curfew after elections

The country’s government announced on Saturday that it is imposing a curfew and cutting off internet access in the wake of general elections in the Central African state.

The nighttime curfew will be imposed from Sunday, Communications Minister Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou said on public television, to “counter the spread of calls for violence… and false information.” Internet access was suspended until further notice, he added.

Voters went to the polls on Saturday morning for presidential, parliamentary and local elections, in which the scion of a family that has ruled the Central African country for more than half a century is seeking a third term.

However, the newly united opposition hoped to thwart Bongo’s bid for a third term and end his family’s 55-year hold on power. Six of the main opposition parties backed main rival Albert Ondo Ossa in a bid to narrow the race to dethrone Bongo.

Family dynasty

The 64-year-old incumbent took office in 2009 after succeeding his father Omar, who himself had been in power for more than 40 years before his death.

The vote is a test of support for the current president. He won the last election in 2016 with just over 5,000 votes.

The result sparked riots as opponents claimed Bongo rigged the election.

Detractors say he has done too little to exploit Gabon’s oil wealth, especially as a third of the country’s 2.3 million people live in poverty, despite Gabon having the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. Africa has, which shows the gap between rich and poor.

In addition, questions have been raised about Bongo’s health and capabilities following a stroke in 2018.

Delays

Voting was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. local time (7 a.m. GMT), although several polling stations in the capital Libreville experienced significant delays, according to Reuters news agency.

Social media reports suggested that ballots were cast on time in some areas, but others noted that their polling stations were still closed long after 8 a.m.

Rule changes

In addition to electing a president, the 850,000-strong electorate also chose candidates for the legislature and local councils.

In the days leading up to the election, the main opposition parties have clamored for a last-minute rule change in the legislative race, which they say violates the separation of powers.

The new move stated that any vote for a local deputy will automatically be a vote for that deputy’s presidential nominee.

jsi/ab (AFP, Reuters)

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