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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bongo wins disputed Gabon ballot

Ali Ben Bongo was widely tipped to succeed his father
Ali Ben Bongo was widely tipped to succeed his father
The son of Gabon's late leader Omar Bongo has been declared the winner of the country's presidential election, amid protests from opposition groups.

Ali Ben Bongo won almost 42% of the votes, with his nearest rival on 26%.

Mr Bongo, whose father ruled the oil-rich nation for four decades before his death in June, was expected to win.

But his critics say the vote was fixed to ensure a dynastic succession, and activists and security forces have been fighting amid widespread unrest.

Prison breakout

Police used teargas and batons to disperse hundreds of opposition activists in the capital, Libreville.

But disturbances have continued, with crowds of activists breaking into a prison and freed hundreds of inmates in the second city of Port-Gentil.

AFP news agency reporting that the crowds then set fire to France's consular building in Port-Gentil.

The election has been mired in controversy - with the announcement of results delayed amid a misunderstanding between election officials over how to verify the votes.

All three of the main candidates declared victory in the poll - while another candidate went on hunger strike to protest against what he saw as irregularities in the election process.

Sunday's vote was generally peaceful but tense, with long queues of voters waiting to chose a successor to Omar Bongo.

One of the world's richest men, the late president owned a string of properties in France.

He was an unflinching ally of France and a key element in French influence in Central Africa. But he denied corruption charges in French courts.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that Ali Ben Bongo is seen as less closely linked to the French elite than his father, despite being educated at the Sorbonne.

He is also somewhat detached from ordinary Gabonese, struggling to speak local languages with real fluency, he says.

Gabon is sub-Saharan Africa's fourth biggest oil producer and Africa's second biggest wood exporter, although most of its 1.4 million people live in poverty.

Source: BBC

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