On Sunday the 30th of August 2009, the people of Gabon will elect a new President. Since 1967, the Gabonese people, only new one leader. Omar Bongo had ruled Gabon for 42 years amidst charges of corruption and mismanagement of public funds. He was able to hang on to power all these years by dismantling political opposition against him by any means possible. During his rule, his eldest Son Ali Ben Bongo was made Defence Minister to help protect his father’s stay in power by ensuring the military was kept out of politics.
Ben Bongo is now the candidate for the ruling party in the forthcoming elections to be held on the 30th of August. He seems to have the best-financed campaign, the backing of security services, and the electoral infrastructure of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party. Recently he urged voters to ignore rival candidates who he says are traitors and liars who will turn their backs on the country.
Five candidates have withdrawn from the elections to throw their support behind former interior minister Andre Mba Obame. But Obame is unlikely to emerge as the leading opposition contender because long-time challenger Pierre Mamboundou remains in the race.
The Republic of Gabon is Africa’s sixth-largest exporter of oil and the world’s fourth-biggest producer of manganese. But despite these resources 70% of its people live below the poverty line. Just before his death, Omar Bongo was facing charges of corruption in a French court. There are more than 30 Bongo family properties in France worth nearly $200 million.
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