Monday, June 8, 2009

President Omar Bongo dies at 73

Monday 08 June 2009
Gabon's President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-serving leader, has died at 73, the country's prime minister confirmed. Bongo, whose political career was clouded by corruption claims, was undergoing treatment at a clinic in Barcelona, Spain. Gabon’s Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong confirmed the death of 73-year-old President Omar Bongo on Monday, in a statement issued at a clinic in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where sources say Africa’s longest-serving ruler was being treated for cancer.At 2:30 pm, the medical team informed me, as well as the officials and members of the family present, that the president of the republic, head of state Omar Bongo Ondimba, had just passed away following a heart attack," the Gabonese premier said in a statement.
The declaration put an end to a flurry of controversial reports, which began with the announcement by French media late on Sunday that Bongo had died.

After news of Bongo's death was confirmed, officials in the West African nation announced a 30-day period of national mourning amid appeals for calm among the population.

Gabon's defence ministry, led by Bongo's son Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, also announced the closure of air, land and sea borders, adding that measures had been taken to "secure sesitive administrative facilities and buildings".
Bongo, who became Africa’s youngest president in 1967 when he was elected at 31, had been receiving treatment in Spain for several weeks. Officially, this was for a check-up and to rest in the wake of his wife’s death in March. However, several sources -- including some from the hospital in Barcelona -- suggested his condition was severe. On May 6, the Gabonese presidency announced the “temporary suspension of [Bongo’s] functions”.
Media confusion
The apparent death of Bongo was first reported late on Sunday by the Web site of French magazine Le Point, quoting a source close to the Gabonese president’s entourage. The news was immediately seconded by AFP news agency, this time quoting a source close to the French government.
However, Gabon’s government spokesman Raphael N’Toutoume told French radio: "I am putting out a formal denial of this".

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