August 15, 2009 / 12:09 PM / 9 years ago

Bongo son stripped of defense job before Gabon vote

Ali Ben Bongo, Gabon's Defence Minister and the son of late President Omar Bongo, addresses mourners at his father's funeral in Libreville June 16, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) - Gabonese Defense Minister Ali Ben Bongo, tipped to replace his late father in an August 30 presidential election, has been stripped of his post in a bid to ensure a fair vote, authorities said.

Bongo’s refusal to step down voluntarily has prompted protests by rivals that the contest will merely rubber-stamp him as successor to his father Omar Bongo, who became one of the continent’s richest men during his four decades in power.

“To put all candidates on the same, equal footing, I have ensured that those who were members of the former government are stripped of their functions,” acting interim president Rose Francine Rogombe said in a public address late on Friday.

Bongo was the only candidate still in government.

Omar Bongo’s death in June has cast a spotlight on whether the oil-producing West African nation — one of the few on the continent to have launched a Eurobond — can pull off a democratic power transition.

Fourteen opposition candidates called this week for the poll to be delayed by three months, arguing more time is needed to compile voter lists and prepare polling booths. The constitutional court has not yet replied to the request.

Reporting by Linel Kwatsi; writing by Mark John

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