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Election Results In OPEC’s Newest Member State Spark Violent Protests

Clashes between supporters of Gabon’s opposition leader Jean Ping and security forces that began on Wednesday culminated in a fire set to the National Assembly building of the central African country. The violence followed the announcement that the incumbent president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the election that took place last Saturday. Ping is disputing this result.

Bongo became president of Gabon in 2009, succeeding his father, who ruled the oil-rich country for more than 40 years, giving rise to strong resentment among the people for usurping most of the country’s oil revenues at the expense of the public.

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Ali Bongo has tried to distance himself from his father’s legacy, but seems to be considered by many a chip off the old block. In the Saturday election, he garnered 49.80 percent of the vote, winning by a slim majority over Ping’s 48.23 percent. Ping is a diplomacy vet who, before he entered local politics, was chairman of the African Union Commission, the executive arm of the African Union. He was also close to the Bongo family.

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According to local sources quoted by the Guardian, crowds of Ping supporters tried to storm the headquarters of the Gabon electoral commission in the course of which three people were shot to death and many more were wounded. The fire in the national Assembly was started by one protestor who managed to get in through the back door.

Gabon is the fifth-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, and is OPEC‘s newest member (July 2016) after leaving OPEC in 1995. Shell, Italy’s Eni and Australian Woodside Petroleum are active in the country.

Gabon has recoverable crude oil reserves of 500 million tonnes, according to the World Oil Council, exploiting them at an annual rate of 12.5 million tonnes. Over the past decade, oil production in Gabon has declined by an estimated 30 percent, while the government struggles to keep production leveled for now at around 250,000 barrels per day—a volume it hopes to double by 2025. According to the most recent official data available by authorities, the country was producing 240,000 bpd in 2014.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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