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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 16:22 UK

Bongo son rivals sacked in Gabon

Ali-Ben Bongo pictured at his father's funeral, 16/06
Ali-Ben Bongo is favourite to succeed his father

Four Gabonese ministers have been sacked after opposing the candidacy of Ali-Ben Bongo, son of the ex-leader, in next month's presidential poll.

Two are senior members of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which has selected Mr Bongo to replace his father Omar Bongo, who died last month.

Casimir Oye Mba and Andre Mba Obame will run as independents after saying Mr Bongo was imposed on the party.

Omar Bongo ruled Gabon from 1967 until his death.

Two members of smaller parties have also been dropped as ministers after announcing that they would run against Mr Bongo.

Mr Bongo has retained his position as defence minister until the 30 August election.

OMAR BONGO
Nicolas Sarkozy with Omar Bongo, 2007
Led Gabon for nearly 42 years
Oil money means Gabon officially one of richest countries in Africa
Maintained close ties to former colonial power France
He denied corruption charges in French courts
Allowed multi-party polls in 1993; opposition said they weren't fair

Former Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong stepped down last week and also plans to run against Mr Bongo

Analysts say Mr Bongo will be the strong favourite to succeed his father.

Rights groups have expressed fears of a dynastic rule in the oil-rich nation.

They have long accused the Bongo family of running the country as their private property.

Omar Bongo amassed a vast fortune during his years in office - but most of the 1.4 million people in Gabon live in poverty.

He maintained close economic and political links with former colonial power France, but French prosecutors launched an investigation into Mr Bongo's wealth in the months before his death.

He was accused of embezzling oil revenues and bribery.



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