Gabon: Obame, a new threat to the Bongo dynasty

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Eleven Gabonese presidential candidates and Gabon’s largest ethnic group, Fang, has opted to throw their weight on one of the presidential candidates, so as to prevent late president Omar Bongo’s son, Ali Bongo, from succeeding his father.

Mr. Mba Obame, who was a former interior minister under late president Bongo is now the man to give Ali Bongo a run for his money, in the Gabon presidential elections set to take place on August 30 . However, Ali Bongo still remains favorite to win Sunday’s poll, after his father ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death in June, 2009. Late president Bongo was facing charges of corruption in a French court when he died.

The Gabonese presidential candidates selected Mr. Obame as their preferred candidate at a secret ballot among the candidates during a meeting chaired by former prime minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong, a statement sent to a French news agency reportedly read. Eleven of the presidential candidates who have now pulled out to support Mr. Obame, had complained of irregularities in the voting register, while one other candidate embarked on a hunger strike, demanding that the elections be postponed.

Mr. Obame was a senior member of the ruling Gabonese Democratic party (PDG) until deciding to run as an independent candidate after PDG selected Ali Ben Bongo as its candidate. But observers have said that the size of the Fang ethnic group where Mr. Obame is from could help him pose a serious competition to Ali Bongo, with added support from other presidential candidates.

Ali Bongo still has the advantage of having the best-financed campaign as the PDG flag bearer. His late father amassed a vast fortune during his years in office in a backdrop of poverty for the 1.4 million people in Gabon.

Gabon is one of West Africa’s more stable countries despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups. Since independence from France in 1960 Gabon has had just two presidents. Its late leader, President Omar Bongo, was in power for over four decades.

The new government in Gabon will be faced with the tension that persists over three small islands in oil-rich off-shore waters claimed by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

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