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Tension mounts after Gabon presidential elections

  • Story Highlights
  • Tension grows in Gabon, West Africa as citizens await result of presidential election
  • Capital Libreville deserted as residents flee the city through fear of violence
  • Voters went to the polls on Sunday to elect a successor to President Omar Bongo
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(CNN) -- Security forces patrolled deserted streets in Gabon's capital as citizens of the west African nation awaited official presidential results amid growing fears of violence, witnesses told CNN on Thursday.

Police block supporters of opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou in Libreville, Gabon.

Police block supporters of opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou in Libreville, Gabon.

Voters in the oil-rich nation went to the polls Sunday to elect a successor to President Omar Bongo, who died in June after more than four decades in office.

Bongo, 73, was Africa's longest-serving ruler. His son, Ali Bongo, a candidate for the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party, was one of the main contenders.

Local media reports indicated that the younger Bongo had won, but CNN was unable to confirm those results.

"The Gabonese have come out of 42 years of dictatorship; they don't care who will be the next president, as long as it is not Bongo," Andriankoto Ratozamanana told CNN by phone from the capital, Libreville. "They want change. They don't want Bongo, because he is his dad's son."

Libreville was deserted because residents had fled to villages for fear of post-election violence, Ratozamanana said.

"The citizens won't accept if Ali Bongo wins, because that will mean the government stole the vote," Ratozamanana said.

The younger Bongo, a former defense minister, was one of 23 politicians originally in the ballot. Several candidates pulled out a few days before the vote to support the opposition, said Archippe Yepmou, a media activist.

Bongo, main opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou and former interior minister Andre Mba Obame have all claimed victory.

The elder Bongo took power in 1967, seven years after the country's independence from France.

He imposed one-party rule a year after succeeding the country's first president, who died in office. He allowed multiparty elections after a new constitution in 1991, but his party retained its grip on the government despite that.

The nation of about 1.5 million has a per capita income four times that of most sub-Saharan African nations, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Despite its wealth, which also comes from timber exports, a large percentage of its population lives in poverty because of poor financial management and a huge gap between the rich and the poor.

CNN's Umaro Djau contributed to this report.

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