- Central Africa
- Politics - Governance
Gabon: Will Omar Bongo’s death mark the end of an era?
Gabonese authorities deny media reports
The Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, Thursday morning confirmed Omar Bongo Ondimba’s hospitalization in a private clinic in Barcelona, Spain. Without giving further details, he indicated that the President of Gabon has been diagnosed with a malignant tumour and "is very ill". However, people close to the head of state have claimed that he is doing much better after undergoing surgery.
In the face of a lack of information, Spain has sounded a rather alarming bell concerning the 73 year old Gabonese president’s health condition.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos Thursday confirmed that Omar Bongo Ondimba had been hospitalized in Barcelona. Without giving further details he said that “the very ill” president is suffering from a "malignant tumour”. Several other sources argue that the president of Gabon, who has enjoyed 42 years at the helm of his country’s affairs, is suffering from an intestinal cancer.
According to the Spanish press, Mr Moratinos has been advised by the Bongo family not to divulge any details concerning the health of the Gabonese president.
Gabonese officials have vehemently denied the death of Africa’s longest serving head of tate. According to them, the president who recently underwent surgery is doing much "better." In a recently released statement they claimed that "contrary to widely circulated allegations by certain news networks, the Gabonese head of state has not undergone any surgery,"
But according to a source interviewed by Agence France Press, Omar Bongo, who was transferred to Barcelona in a medically equipped jet and in the company of a part of his presidential entourage including his daughter Pascaline, suffered a haemorrhage before his arrival to the Spanish city.
End of an era
Unprecedented in the history of Gabon, the office of the president announced May 6, via a press release, that Omar Bongo Ondimba had “temporarily” suspended his presidential activities. The press release explained that the President wished to rest and mourn the “cruel loss” of his wife Edith Lucie Bongo, who died in Rabat Morocco, March 14.
In its May 10 issue, Jeune Afrique wrote that recent eyewitness reports claimed the president looked "frail, fragile, melancholic…”. "With the various conflicting information flying around, the mood is rather uncertain in the capital" said an observer.
The Gabonese media has failed to report on anything concerning Omar Bongo’s health.
In effect, Gabonese citizens who have rarely seen or heard of their president in recent times, were graced with more food for thought when military tanks patrolled the streets of the capital, Libreville, on Tuesday. According to Captain Sylvain Moutsinga, it was to show that “the presidential palace was well-guarded”.
Since Omar Bongo’s "suspension of activities" two weeks ago, his vice President, Didjob Divungi Di Ndinge, has been in charge of state affairs. However, should Omar Bongo not return, Rose Francine Rogombe, the president of the Gabonese senate and a longtime Bongo ally, would be legally responsible to set a date for new elections.
But the question of who will be the next president of Gabon is yet to be answered. Analysts have indicated that the country is headed towards a one family rule after Omar Bongo’s 42 year rule. So far, two possible candidates have been cited by experts; Ali Ben Bongo (Omar’s son and current Defence Minister) and Paul Toungui (Omar’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister). According to rumours, the opposition is, reportedly, working together to stop any family oriented initiative.
In the country, however, there is an eerie breeze announcing the possible end of an era.