/ 3 September 2009

Gabon’s Bongo declared winner of presidential poll

Ali Ben Bongo, son of Gabon’s long-time ruler, Omar Bongo, won an election to succeed his late father with 41,73%of the vote, the interior minister announced on Thursday.

Just more than 800 000 voters had registered to take part in Sunday’s election, called after Omar Bongo’s death of a heart attack in June ended nearly 42 years of tight rule over the Central African oil nation.

”[Ben Bongo] is elected,” Interior Minister Jean-Francois Ndongou declared on state television.

Security forces earlier used tear gas to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters who had led an overnight sit-in on a square near the election commission in the capital, Libreville.

A Reuters witness said the streets of Libreville were empty apart from a heavy security presence.

Ben Bongo’s rivals had said they feared the official results were being massaged to ensure a dynastic succession from father to son, an accusation Bongo, the former defence minister, denied.

Observers and financial markets have played down the risk of major instability in the tiny country but some unrest was expected given the dispute over the result.

The death of 73-year-old Omar Bongo ended a period that brought his country stability but also allegations that he lavished petrodollars on family and friends rather than using them to alleviate widespread poverty.

Gabon hosts oil firms including France’s Total and US-based Vaalco, and is one of the few sub-Saharan countries to have launched a Eurobond.

Analysts say Ben Bongo now faces the challenge of diversifying the economy to replace revenue from Gabon’s dwindling oil reserves. — Reuters