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Thu Jun 30 10:34:49 SAST 2016

Gabon's President Bongo to run for re-election this year

AFP | 29 February, 2016 17:36
Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba. File photo
Image by: THOMAS MUKOYA / REUTERS

President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose father ruled oil-rich Gabon for 41 years, on Monday said he would seek a second term in polls this year and pledged to fight "unwarranted privilege" in the tiny African nation.

Speaking from a bridge under construction in the rural Ozouri area, where oil was first discovered in the mid 1950s, Bongo said "I am announcing my candidacy at this year's presidential election."

If elected, he pledged he would "fight with determination against unwarranted privilege and build a better life together" for Gabon's 1.6 million people, most of whom are mired in poverty despite the oil wealth.

He also vowed to diversify the economy in a country where oil accounts for 60 percent of state revenues.

Bongo was elected for a first term in a disputed 2009 vote following the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had steered Gabon from 1967 and was described by critics as a corrupt despot.

Meanwhile a court in the western French city of Nantes on Monday dismissed a case filed by his half-sister -- one of 54 heirs to his father's fortune -- alleging his birth certificate was a forgery.

With presidential elections approaching, controversy was brewing over Ali Bongo's place of birth with critics saying he falsified his birth certificate to hide the fact that he was adopted from another country.

The Gabonese constitution says heads of state must be born Gabonese but French investigative journalist Pierre Pean alleged in a book that the president was actually Nigerian and was adopted during the Biafran war in the late 1960s.

Bongo himself claims he was born in Brazzaville in 1959, former capital of French Equatorial Africa.

The Nantes civil registration centre is responsible for all birth certificates of people born in French Equatorial Africa up to 1960, when the former colonial countries in the region gained independence to become Gabon, Congo, Chad and the Central African Republic.

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