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Gabon’s Bongo tours central Africa after poll win

By on September 12, 2009

af.reuters.comGabon’s president-elect Ali Ben Bongo embarked on a tour of central Africa on Friday, seeking to shore up support from regional leaders after winning a vote that his rivals have rejected, sparking violence in the streets. At home, a coalition of 17 candidates who challenged Ben Bongo’s victory called on Friday for three days of national strikes next week
and complained they were being barred from travelling by the authorities.

Despite several days of clashes and opposition vows of further protests, Ben Bongo appears set to take over as president of the oil-producing nation, which his father Omar Bongo ran for more than 40 years until his death in June.

“President Paul Biya has always considered me as his son … I had to come and see him so he could give me sound advice,” Ben Bongo said on Cameroon’s state television.

With Omar Bongo’s death, Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for over 27 years, has become one of the most senior leaders in the tight network of oil-producing former French colonies.

“The task ahead of me is not easy … we will form a government and get to work,” Ben Bongo added.

After four hours in Cameroon, Ben Bongo visited Congo Republic, which has long had ties with the Bongo clan. Omar Bongo was married to the Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s daughter until she died early this year.

Ben Bongo told reporters in Congo’s capital, Brazzaville, that he had also sought advice from Sassou-Nguesso.

“Like a good son, I also explained to him the situation in my country, which is returning to normal,” Ben Bongo said.

The president-elect did not travel to Democratic Republic of Congo, as previously thought, but said he would soon be in Chad.


Ben Bongo’s rivals accuse him of rigging the August 30 poll, in which he came out on top, with just under 42 percent. They also accuse his security forces of killing 15 people during the violence, a figure Ben Bongo has challenged.

His two nearest rivals, veteran opponent Pierre Mamboundou and Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister who abandoned the ruling party in June, both scored just over 25 percent and have vowed to challenge Ben Bongo.

“In solidarity and in memory of those who have disappeared, we … call for three days of strikes, starting from Monday 14th September,” a coalition of 17 candidates and civil society organisations said in a joint statement on Friday.

The group, which includes Mamboundou and Obame, also condemned travel restrictions they say have prevented them from leaving Gabon since the election.

However, they are yet to officially contest the Constitutional Court’s declaration of Ben Bongo’s victory, which has been recognised by several leaders, including former colonial power France, a long-time ally of Omar Bongo.

French interests, including the country’s consulate and a sports club belonging to oil firm Total were attacked in the violence as protestors accuse Paris of backing a dynastic-style succession to protect their interests.

As most analysts predicted, the violence, which was most intense in the oil town of Port Gentil, has died down relatively quickly.

However, after the anger on the streets and given the considerable vote against him, Ben Bongo, like his father, is likely to seek consensus in his government.


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