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Bongo Names Gabon Government

By Scott Stearns
18 October 2009

Gabon's new president Ali Ben Bongo has named his first government. Mr. Bongo is promising change after more than 40 years under his father, Omar Bongo.

Ali Ben Bongo is keeping interim Prime Minister Paul Mba, who has served in the post since July when his predecessor stepped down to run against Mr. Bongo.

Paul Tongui remains foreign minister. Jean Francois Ndoungou keeps his job as interior minister. Angelique Ngoma moves from minister of families to defense minister - the first time a woman has held that post in Gabon.

Mr. Bongo was defense minister in the previous government of his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June.

In all, 12 members of the new government are veterans of the previous administration. But Mr. Bongo has trimmed its size. Including himself and the prime minister, there are just 30 members of the new government. The previous administration had 44.

Francois Engongah Owono is the secretary general of the presidency. Owono says the new, smaller government will be more efficient and includes people determined to get everyone in Gabon working together for a better country.

Mr. Bongo was sworn in Saturday after a lengthy review of the August election that brought him to power. Opposition candidates filed suit to overturn the results, accusing electoral officials of vote fraud to benefit the ruling party. Gabon's constitutional court recounted returns from more than 2,800 polling stations and confirmed Mr. Bongo's win.

Most election observers believe the vote was fair, despite irregularities that included security forces at polling stations, some ballot boxes not being properly sealed, and the absence of opposition representatives during some vote counting.

Mr. Bongo is promising to improve health, education, and housing in Gabon and more equitably distribute oil revenue. Under his father, Gabon became he world's sixth-largest oil exporter but 70 percent of the population still live in poverty.

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