Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba has attacked mob justice after a second person was lynched by a crowd in the capital Libreville after rumours spread of child kidnappings.
“Two of our fellow citizens have lost their lives as a result of the dramatic incidents in Libreville on Friday,” President Ali Bongo Ondimba said on Facebook late on Sunday.
“Nothing can justify the inhuman acts which have shaken our country, or crowd vengeance, which by definition is blind and unjust,” he said.
“Gabonese justice will hand out exemplary punishment to all the guilty.”
Rumours of a series of child abductions spread on social media following the disappearance on January 12 of a 3-year-old boy named Rinaldi in a village in the north.
Unrest erupted in Libreville on Friday, with the erection of roadblocks and mob searches of vehicles for any sign of abducted children.
One man who was attacked by the crowd died that day, the government said at the weekend.
A second man, identified as Patrick Eyeghe, an employee at the country’s competition authority, was taken to hospital, but died of his injuries on Saturday.
The mob had accused him of being a kidnapper, but in fact he was only in the Venez-voir neighbourhood to pick up his children from school, officials said.
Videos of the lynchings have been widely shared on social media.
Seventeen people have been detained in relation to the unrest, according to the pro-government daily, l’Union.
The government staged a press conference on Friday to say that there had been only one kidnapping and to appeal to the public for calm.
According to a source close to the government, a person has been arrested in connection with Rinaldi’s disappearance.
In 2012 and 2013, the discovery of several mutilated bodies spurred rumours of ritual killings to remove organs for black magic, sparking protest marches.