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Africa

Heads of state pay respects to Bongo

©

Video by Luke BROWN , Julien FANCIULLI

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-16

Heads of state and thousands of mourners are paying their respects to Gabon's late President Omar Bongo Ondimba as he is laid to rest on Tuesday. French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived for the state funeral amid jeers from the crowd.

 

Some 15 heads of state gathered in Gabon on Tuesday morning to honour late President Omar Bongo Ondimba as he is remembered in Libreville.  He will be buried later in Franceville, near the town where he was born.

 

Most of the leaders in attendance are from Africa, but a large French delegation is also present, highlighting the importance French leaders still give to their former colonies on the African continent. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was joined at the ceremony by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former president Jacques Chirac.

 

Dozens of Gabonese jeered and yelled at the French leader as he arrived at the presidential palace.

 

“You French, you come here to eat Gabon,” a man in the crowd told Agence France-Presse. “All the presidents who have come to this palace have left again with their pockets full and then you criticise us.”

 

Security guards quickly ushered Sarkozy into the palace and away from the crowd.

 

African Union commission president Jean Ping, who is originally from Gabon, and presidents Paul Biya of Cameroon, François Bozize of the Central African Republic,  Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville are also attending the funeral.

  

Bongo's death at the age of 73 at a medical clinic in Barcelona, where he was being treated for intestinal cancer, was announced on June 8.

 

A question of succession

 

Born on December 30, 1935, Bongo ruled Gabon for 41 years, and his death has raised the inevitable questions of who will succeed him.

 

Under the rules of the country's constitution, elections must be called between 30 and 45 days of the Constitutional Court's declaration of a power vacancy, which it did on June 9. But a source close to the presidency told Agence France-Presse that holding elections by the constitutional deadline would be unlikely because the country lacks adequate records on its eligible voters.

 

The court named the Senate speaker, Rose Francine Rogombe, 66, as interim head of state on June 9.

Some observers speculate that Bongo's politician son is a likely choice to succeed him. Ali Ben Bongo, 50, currently serves as the country's defence minister.

Other possible contenders include the late president's daughter, Pascaline, who headed her father's inner cabinet, and Paul Toungui, the country's foreign minister and companion of Pascaline Bongo.

 

Date created : 2009-06-16

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