26 May 2009

Gabon: Bongo Illness Reports Spark Succession Debate

Photo: Michelle Poiré /UN
Gabon President Omar Bongo Ondimba

The people of Gabon have been wondering for some days now about the state of health of President Omar Bongo Ondimba, reports Infos Plus Gabon of Libreville.

There has been no official announcement contradicting rumours that Bongo's health has deterioriated, although it has been confirmed that he has been out of the country for close to two weeks. In the meantime, troops have been deployed on the streets of Libreville from nightfall until morning every day.

However, a Spanish newspaper has reported that Bongo is being treated for intestinal cancer at a private clinic in Barcelona, where doctors report that his state of health is serious.

Meanwhile, Abidjan's Notre Voie reports that the battle to succeed Bongo, who has ruled for nearly 42 years, has commenced.

Within his party, the Gabonese Democratic Party, candidates being discussed include Bongo's son, Ali Bongo, who is currently defence minister. But rumors about Ali's health have surfaced after a report posted by the opposition UDP [l'Union du Peuple Gabonais/the Gabonese People's Union] claimed he is being hospitalised in France for unknown reasons.

Another likely candidate is his daughter, Pascaline Mféri Bongo, who is the director of his cabinet. And a possible prospect is former finance minister Paul Toungui.

For the opposition, names mentioned include Zacharie Myboto, a member of the ruling party untill 2004, but the most likely candidate according to observers is Pierre Mamboundou, head of the Gabonese People's Union and the leader of the opposition in Gabon.

Translated from the French by Michael Tantoh.

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