REUTERS - Gabon’s president-elect Ali Ben Bongo embarked on a tour of central Africa on Friday, seeking to shore up support from regional leaders after winning a vote that his rivals have rejected, sparking violence in the streets.
Despite several days of clashes and opposition vows of further protests, Ben Bongo is set to take over as president of the oil-producing nation, which his father Omar Bongo ran for over 40 years until his death in June this year.
“President Paul Biya has always considered me as his son ... I had to come and see him so he could give me sound advice,” Ben Bongo said on Cameroon’s state television.
After four hours in Cameroon, Ben Bongo was expected to travel to Congo Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.
With Omar Bongo’s death, Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for over 27 years, has become one of the most senior leaders in the tight network of oil-producing former French colonies.
“The task ahead of me is not easy ... we will form a government and get to work,” Ben Bongo added.
Ben Bongo’s rivals accuse him of rigging the Aug. 30 poll, in which he came out on top, with just under 42 percent.
His two nearest rivals, veteran opponent Pierre Mamboundou and Andre Mba Obame, a former interior minister who abandoned the ruling party in June, both scored just over 25 percent and have vowed to challenge Ben Bongo.
However, they are yet to officially contest the Constitutional Court’s declaration of Ben Bongo’s victory, which has been recognised by several leaders, including former colonial power France, a long-time ally of Omar Bongo.
French interests, including the country’s consulate and a sports club belonging to oil firm Total were attacked in the violence as protestors accuse Paris of backing a dynastic-style succession to protect their interests.
As most analysts predicted, the violence, which was most intense in the oil town of Port Gentil, has died down relatively quickly.
However, after the anger on the streets and given the considerable vote against him, Ben Bongo, like his father, is likely to seek consensus in his government.