Backers of Gabon's Obame catch 'raiders'

2011-05-20 18:06

Libreville - Militants supporting Gabonese opposition leader Andre Mba Obame caught four men overnight, including a police officer, whom they believed wished to arrest Mba Obame illegally, they said on Friday.

The four men were detained overnight by members of Mba Obame's National Union (UN) who keep watch over the home of the opposition leader, who proclaimed himself president of Gabon in January, dismissing election results.

Mba Obame's parliamentary immunity was lifted early in May, opening the way to prosecution, and he was summoned to appear on Friday before the B2 intelligence service, but he and his lawyer said he declined to go, especially after the events of the night.

The incident occurred at around 11:30 an AFP correspondent saw.

Seated on the ground, the captives said they had been chasing "thieves armed with a knife". The police officer said his gun was his service revolver.

"I was beaten. I've got a split lip," said captive Alain Mvono Abaga, who works for an airline company close to Mba Obame's home.

Officials of the UN urged militants not to resort to violence, but some of those present wanted to lynch the four men and made death threats against them. "You won't see your families again," one said.

Political response

"I was minister of the interior. What were these men doing there at that time of night? [...] It's not circumstantial that armed men were found around my home," Mba Obame told AFP.

"Every night, we arrest militants [loyal to President Ali Bongo's party] around the house. We interrogate them, we free them after three or four days. This time they got too close to me."

Mvono Abaga countered that the group of men was chasing a man who had held up his wife. "We ran after him, and just when I believed that the crowd was going to help us catch him, I realised that they accused us of something."

UN deputy executive secretary Gerard Ella Nguema called for calm among the militants and told them: "We'll wait for justice to clarify the situation. But we can't play these games. The climate is bad."

Obame, whose parliamentary immunity was lifted after he proclaimed himself head of state, was summoned to the offices of the intelligence services, but his lawyer Lubin Ntoutoume said he would not go. "He has been clear on this point in the past few days."

"I will not co-operate with this travesty. I carried out a political act, so let me have a political response. I want to be summoned before the appropriate jurisdictions: the High Court or the State Security Court. I'm being treated like a common law prisoner. I'm not a swindler, a bandit," Mba Obame told AFP.