(AFP) – Aug 7, 2009
LIBREVILLE — Thousands of demonstrators clashed with police in Gabon Friday at a rally calling for Defence Minister Ali Ben Bongo to resign because he is in the running to succeed his late father as president.
Several people were injured in skirmishes during the rally, which was attended by several other candidates to succeed Bongo's father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who ruled the country for 41 years.
Friday's unrest erupted after police used tear gas on protesters throwing stones ahead of the march, which had been called by several of the candidates.
As the march gathered momentum the crowd swelled to about 10,000 in Democracy Square, according to an estimate by an AFP correspondent.
Marchers shouted slogans such as "Ali resign", "We want change" and "Ali dictator."
"Gabon is not a monarchy. The people must decide. Ali should go," student Ghislain Ledoux said, while informing the police: "We're not afraid of you."
"We supported the father, but we don't want the son. If people don't listen to us, everything will burn," said a young man who declined to give his name.
Bongo is one of 23 contenders to succeed his father in an August 30 election, but has come in for criticism from several of the other candidates.
They have argued he should step down from the government because he could use his position to forward his own campaign.
"The era of the (ruling) PDG is over," said a man in his 40s who gave his family name as Ondo, and dubbed the PDG as the Party of Gabonese Embezzlers. "When I was 18, we fought for multi-party politics. There were riots (in 1990). It's starting again."
The presidential candidates attending Friday's demonstration did so despite it having been banned by the Libreville authorities.
Opposition leaders Pierre Mamboundou, Zacharie Myboto, Jules Aristide Bourdes Ogouliguende and Luc Bengono Asi were all present, according to an AFP correspondent.
Also present were independent candidates Bruno Ben Moubamba, Casimir Oye Mba and Anna Claudine Ayo Assayi. Paul Mba Abessole, who comes from a party that is part of the ruling coalition, also attended.
Last month, eight of the contenders signed a statement calling on Ali Bongo and Technical Education Minister Pierre-Claver Maganga Moussavou, another presidential hopeful, to resign.
On Thursday, Moussavou announced that he would be quitting the government to devote himself to the electoral campaign.
Omar Bongo's death at 72 was announced on June 8, after 41 years in power.
The candidates to succeed him range from opposition figures to heavyweights in the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).
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