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Africa

Senate leader Rogombe takes over as interim president

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-10

Gabon's high court has sworn in Rose Francine Rogombe, the president of the Senate, as interim head of state following the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba, Africa's longest-serving president.

Gabon's Senate speaker Rose Francine Rogombe, 66, was sworn in Wednesday as head of state at an official ceremony in Libreville, after the death of President Omar Bongo Ondimba.
   
"I swear to devote all my strength to the good of the Gabonese people, with the aim of promoting its well-being and protecting it from all harm, to respect and defend the constitution and a state of law, and conscientiously to carry out my duties and to be fair before everyone," Rogombe said.

 

Rogombe will "provisionally" exercise power and and elections will be held in between 30 and 45 days.
   
A former equality and human rights minister, Rogombe will not assume all the powers held by Bongo, and not have authority to hold referendums or dissolve parliament, the court specified.
   

Equally, powers held by the vice-president, currently Didjob Divungi Di Ndinge, would be withdrawn.
   
"The important thing is to respect institutions and the memory of president" Bongo, Communications Minister Laure Olga Gondjout had told journalists, after some ministers left a cabinet meeting in tears.
   
Bongo's death at 73 was announced by the prime minister Monday in Barcelona, Spain, where he had been undergoing treatment for intestinal cancer.
   
His body was due to be repatriated on Thursday, with official ceremonies set to be held from Friday to Monday.
   
Most shops and markets were open, despite a car park attendant at Libreville's biggest supermarket saying Monday's announcement was followed by "a rush to stock up on food," in case of a curfew.
   
The city's mayor had also closed bars and nightclubs after the president's death was confirmed, but a councillor said Tuesday that restrictions could be eased after Bongo's funeral.
   
The frontiers were reopened Tuesday and the defence ministry -- run by Bongo's son Ali Ben Bongo, 50, the favourite to succeed him -- said that there would be no curfew, though public buildings would remain under watch.
   
Flags fly at half-mast, special broadcasts are aired on state channels, while mourning will last for 30 days.
   

 

"We're strictly following the constitutional route, contrary to supposition and Machiavellian plans attributed to one person or another, particularly the defence minister," Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame said.
   
But another source close to the presidency warned that "organising democratic elections within 45 days is impossible" because of a lack of an accurate electoral roll.
   
The source said authorities are "following the constitution at the pace of a forced march since the Bongo clan left no time to prepare anything else."
   
The government has stressed the importance of unity and credited Bongo with bringing it to the former French colony, a patchwork of ethnic groups.
   
US President Barack Obama himself praised Bongo's "commitment to conflict resolution," while African leaders hailed the elder statesman and peacemaker, particularly in central Africa.
   
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo said the death of "this great statesman who put his stamp on the history of contemporary Africa was a great loss."
   
But the head of an African rights watchdog, Alioune Tine, said three dangers existed, principally citing "divisions and struggles within (Bongo's) clan and the family."
   
The chairman of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) also highlighted the fact Bongo hailed from an ethnic minority, and discontent among Gabonese workers.
   
Bongo came to power in 1967 with French support to rule over a nation that grew rich on oil -- pumped by French firm Elf -- and maintained a wealthy elite while most of the 1.5 million population remained poor.
   
In his last months, Gabon's relations with Paris soured over a French probe into Bongo's luxury residences in France and a court order to freeze his bank accounts, amid allegations of embezzlement.

Date created : 2009-06-09

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