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Africa's Longest-Serving Leader Wins Another Term

  • Joe Bavier

Gabon President Omar Bongo, Africa's longest serving leader, has won another term, according to final results from Sunday's presidential election. Though sanctioned by international observers, the vote was marked by low voter turnout.

Gabon President Omar Bongo claimed a comfortable victory in Sunday's poll with 79.2 percent of the total votes. His nearest challenger, long-standing opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou, took just 13.6 percent.

The result, announced late Tuesday, means the 69-year-old president, who has ruled Gabon since 1967, will have another seven years in power.

Mr. Bongo is the longest-serving African leader, following the death of Togo President Gnassingbe Eyadema earlier this year. Worldwide, only Cuba's Fidel Castro has ruled longer.

Few had doubted the election would end with a Bongo victory. The president has handily won the three elections since multi-party politics were restored in 1990.

The streets of Gabon's capital, Libreville, were empty late Tuesday. Independent journalist Desire Ename says there was little enthusiasm among Gabon's people following the proclamation of the Bongo victory.

"The people were indifferent to the result," he said. "There is no explosion of joy. We did not hear such kinds of things. Nobody was really amazed by the result."

The region has suffered over the past decades from a cycle of civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and nearby Angola. During that same time, Gabon has remained relatively stable. President Bongo said during his campaign that only he could guarantee that stability would continue.

Despite having been declared free and fair by international observers, the election was marked by widespread voter apathy.

Journalist Desire Ename says people are bored with the system, and many no longer believe in elections. But he says some still hope that things may someday change.

"There is a new generation of young people in Gabon now, who have traveled, who have seen everything all over the world," he said. "They have traveled a lot. And they try to compare what they have seen with what they have in Gabon. And they want change for that."

Though rich in oil and timber, Gabon has suffered in recent years from rampant corruption and crumbling infrastructure.