- Pierre Mamboundou, who finished second in Gabon's 2005 presidential elections, has gone underground to seek protection against Libreville police. The country's leading opposition leader has declared his desire to seek political asylum in a Western country due to "personal insecurity".
Mr Mamboundou today told local media that he had gone into hiding after several attacks against him and his opposition party, the Gabonese People's Union (UPG). The UPG leader claims that his security in Gabon is not safeguarded.
He went underground after large numbers of armed police this morning had stormed his party's Libreville headquarters, while he had been able to escape a possible detention. The police officers, armed with machine guns, had confiscated computers and papers during their raid against the UPG offices.
Mr Mamboundou was the UPG's official candidate during the presidential poll in November 2005 and also had the support of several other opposition parties. Gabonese President Omar Bongo was re-elected with almost 80 percent of the votes in an election that generally was described as unfair and fraudulent. Mr Mamboundou won 13.5 percent of the votes, according to official results, and thus came second to President Bongo.
The opposition leader today has been in contact with several media from his hiding in Libreville. He told the Libreville-based media 'Gabonews' that he was now planning to contact Western embassies in the Gabonese capital and formally request a political asylum.
According to statements made today by Mr Mamboundou, riot police indeed had planned to arrest him for unknown reasons. The UPG leader's arrest had indeed been announced by the party's Secretary-General Richard Moulomba shortly after the police raid. For several hours this morning, Mr Mamboundou was believed to have been arrested.
According to statements made to the British broadcaster BBC, Mr Mamboundou had no idea why the police raid against his party's headquarters had taken place. Several UPG sympathisers last Saturday however had participated in a non-authorised demonstration against the high costs of living in Gabon, which had turned violent. During the march, two cars were set on fire and barricades were raised.
The opposition party also last week announced that is still not would recognise the results of November's presidential elections, although its legal attempts within the Gabonese judiciary to protest the outcome had all been turned down. UPG officials announced their intentions to file a complaint with the African Union (AU) to have the results declared invalid.
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