Late president Omar Bongo laid to rest

The burial of Gabon's late President Omar Bongo Ondimba takes place Thursday in Franceville, following a week of mourning rituals. Africa's longest serving leader died in a Barcelona hospital on June 8.


AFP - The burial of Gabon's President Omar Bongo Ondimba, who was Africa's longest-serving leader, began Thursday with traditional rites at the presidential palace in Franceville.

The ceremony took place in the local Teke language spoken in Bongo's native region in the southeast of the equatorial African country.

Bongo died in a Spanish clinic last week. His state funeral was a grandiose affair Tuesday in Libreville, attended by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and rulers from a dozen other African nations.

The burial of the man who ruled the oil-rich nation of 1.5 million people for 41 years was billed as an "intimate" family affair, but about 1,000 people gathered at the luxurious palace.

Thousands of mourners from the region where Bongo, 73, was born came to the palace to file before the coffin draped in the Gabonese flag on Wednesday.

Ali Ben Bongo, the defence minister widely tipped to succeed his father, was there, with Bongo's daughter Pascaline, who ran his cabinet and manages his personal fortune, with Bongo's elder brother Andjoua-Fidele.

Interim president Rose Francine Rogombe, the Senate speaker, also attended with Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong and many other members of the cabinet.

Traditionally, mourners give gifts to the family, either in money or in kind. People who came to present their condolences arrived at the palace with numerous animals, including goat kids, chickens and even gazelles. Others brought bananas or rush mats.

After the ceremony, Bongo's body was to be laid to rest in a mausoleum built inside the palace, a source close to the family said.

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