Coming up

Don't miss




The World This Week - 01 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more


Coverage of Gaza in the Israeli media

Read more


1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

Read more


The World This Week - 01 August 2014

Read more


Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

Read more

#THE 51%

World War One: The war that changed women’s lives

Read more


Ségolène Royal goes for green

Read more


A look back at some of the Observers' best stories

Read more


Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

  • Hamas denies capturing Israeli soldier as Gaza truce lies in tatters

    Read more

  • Scores killed in China factory explosion

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

    Read more

  • Police 'chokehold' caused NYC death, coroner rules

    Read more

  • French most keen to erase their online footprint, says Google

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Rogue general denies Islamist seizure of Benghazi

    Read more

  • Ugandan court strikes down anti-gay legislation

    Read more

  • 1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

    Read more

  • Video: Tipping is dying out in French café culture

    Read more

  • €2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Appeal court keeps French rogue trader Kerviel in jail

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more


Presidential hopefuls in row over 'unity' candidate

Video by Kate WILLIAMS


Latest update : 2009-08-29

Four candidates who reportedly pulled out of Gabon's presidential race to back a rival to frontrunner Ali Bongo Ondimba have dismissed the allegation, the latest twist in a fast-changing and increasingly confusing electoral campaign.

AFP - A bid to find a unity candidate in Gabon's presidential election backfired Friday, as four contenders denied having pulled out of Sunday's race to rally behind a rival to frontrunner Ali Bongo.

All four dismissed a statement issued earlier Friday saying they had agreed to back former minister Andre Mba Obame in a bid to beat Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of the former president Omar Bongo Ondimba.

But representatives of five other candidates told a press conference that they had decided to stand down and support Mba Obame, in line with an initial statement released by his camp.

Until Friday, 23 politicians were in the race to take over from Bongo, who died early in June after 41 years at the helm of the oil-rich central African nation, where an estimated 60 percent of the population of 1.5 million live below the poverty level.

The original statement, issued after talks that went into the early hours Friday, said 11 candidates had quit the race in favour of Mba Obame, who beat former prime minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong to become the unity candidate in a secret ballot.

But four of those listed in the statement swiftly issued denials.

Casimir Oye Mba, former minister for mines, oil and hydrocarbons, seen as one of the frontrunners, said he was still in the race.

"I am and I remain a candidate in Sunday's presidential poll," Oye Mba said, adding that he was about to take a plane to the provinces for a rally. "I'm pursuing my campaign like I began it."

Three other presidential hopefuls -- Victoire Lasseni Duboze, Bruno Ben Moubamba and Jules Aristide Bourdes Ogouliguende -- also denounced their inclusion in the statement.

"It's a dirty trick," Moubamba told AFP.

Those who confirmed that they had stood down were Eyeghe Ndong, former deputy prime minister Paul Mba Abessole, independent candidate Mehdi Teale, business leader Jean Ntoumoume Ngoua and the Pentecostal leader Anna Claudine Assayi Ayo.

Mba Obame's spokesman Francois Ondo Edou told Friday's press conference that 13 of the candidates or their representatives had attended the long meeting and said, "There was no hint of manipulation."

Oye Mba told journalists he had returned to Libreville late Thursday to find the meeting under way and said, "I observed that a whole day hadn't been enough for them to reach a precise political decision."

He had stayed until midnight, but was tired from campaigning, and went to bed, only to hear in the morning that "candidates had allegedly rallied round Mba Obama," he added.

"You can type my name on a statement, but what matters is my signature," Oye Mba added, disassociating himself from the text.

But Assayi Ayo told journalists, "The first person who voted was Casimir Oye Mba. It was he who suggested the idea of a vote!"

Ben Moubamba recalled that when Mba Obame was minister of the interior, he had last January jailed leaders of non-governmental organisations who wrote an open letter that was highly critical of the Bongo regime.

As things stand, Ali Bongo remains the overwhelming favourite to succeed his father, and he has himself spoken out against the former system of favouritism and kickbacks among an elite.

The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party backs him and he has a huge campaign war chest, but the opposition has denounce the corruption and favouritism that is endemic in Gabon and fears it will continue under Ali Bongo.

Gabon is sub-Saharan Africa's fourth biggest oil producer, the world's third biggest provider of manganese and Africa's second biggest wood exporter.

Date created : 2009-08-28