Gabon's President Bongo dies in Spanish clinic

Mon Jun 8, 2009 7:48pm GMT

By Marco Trujillo

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Gabon's President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest-serving leader, died on Monday of a heart attack in a Spanish clinic after more than four decades of tight control over the central African oil-producing nation.

His death leaves a power vacuum. Analysts say factions within the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) will be jostling to work out who succeeds him, with his son, Defence Minister Ali Ben Bongo, seen as a leading candidate.

The 73-year-old leader died at around 2:30 pm (1230 GMT) in the Quiron clinic in Barcelona, according to a statement issued at the hospital by Gabonese Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong.

"Throughout his political career, President Bongo always cultivated unity and cohesion among the Gabonese people," Ndong said, announcing 30 days of national mourning.

"At this moment of grief, the government calls on you to remain united in solidarity, in contemplation and dignity."

French radio said the Gabonese defence minister had ordered the closure of the country's air, land and sea borders.

The government said it would respect the terms of the constitution, under which Senate President Rose Francine Rogombe, a Bongo ally in the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), is expected to take over as interim leader.

She should then organise elections within 45 days.   Continued...

<p>A file photo shows Gabonese President Omar Bongo. REUTERS/FILE</p>
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