- A Gabonese government spokesperson Raphael N'Toutoume has denied reports that President Omar Bongo has died in a Spanish clinic. President Bongo who was admitted at a clinic in Barcelona in May and is reportedly receiving a cancer treatment.
On Sunday, the French magazine Le Point reported that President Bongo had died in the Spanish country.
Mr N'Toutoume said the country had received good news that the president’s health was progressing and that he was ready to leave the clinic. “We were getting ready to welcome the head of state,” he told France radio station today.
President Bongo who is Africa’s longest serving head of state held on to power in Gabon with an authoritarian hand since 1967. Fuelling his state and personal economy with a large oil production, Mr Bongo has been reluctant to enter any real democratisation process in Gabon.
In Gabon, the strongly government controlled press has not been able to report on the President's serious illness. The only indication on Mr Bongo's retirement from power came on 6 May, when government announced that Mr Bongo would be suspending his activities as head of state.
In May both the Spanish Foreign Minister and the Barcelona clinic confirmed Mr Bongo's illness. However, the government sources in the Gabonese capital Libreville maintain the President was in good health and only observing his mourning period.
In the case of President Bongo's death, the Gabonese constitution foresees that the Head of Senate assumes powers as Acting President for a duration of maximum 90 days, which are to be used to organise elections.
The Gabonese Senate is currently headed by Rose Francine Rogombe. Ms Rogombe, if allowed to take on transition powers, would be constitutionally banned from running as presidential candidate.
Gabon which has more than 40 ethic groups is one of West Africa's more stable countries since independence from France in 1960.
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