Gabon's president hospitalised in Spain

22nd May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Africa's longest-serving ruler Gabon President Omar Bongo Ondimba has been hospitalised in Spain and is seriously ill with cancer.

Barcelona – Africa's longest-serving ruler, Gabon President Omar Bongo Ondimba, has been hospitalised in Spain, the Spanish foreign minister said Thursday amid reports he is seriously ill with cancer.

Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters during a visit to Bosnia that Bongo, 73, is "receiving medical treatment at a clinic" in the northeastern city of Barcelona.

A non-Spanish source told AFP that Bongo is suffering from intestinal cancer and is in serious condition in Barcelona's private Quiron hospital clinic.

The source said Bongo, who has been president of the former French colony in west Africa since 1967, had also suffered a haemorrhage as he was being transferred to Spain about 10 days ago. He was accompanied by his entourage, including his daughter Pascaline Bongo.

The Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia said in its online edition that the Gabonese leader was suffering from a "serious tumour." It also quoted Moratinos as saying his condition was "very bad."

A spokesman at the Quiron confirmed that Bongo was undergoing treatment there, but gave no further details.

Sources close to the president in the Gabonese capital Libreville told AFP that he had "undergone an operation" but "is better."

No media outlets in Gabon mentioned his hospitalisation Thursday morning.

Bongo announced on 6 May that he was "temporarily" suspending his duties to rest and mourn the death last month of his wife.

Since then, he has not appeared in public

The president "has been through particularly difficult times with the illness of his wife," said an official statement read on national television at the time. It said he would use the suspension of his activities to "regain strength and rest."

The statement did not give any details of Bongo's health but said he had acted "following pressing and repeated requests from his family and political figures in the country."

The surprise announcement came only a few hours after a French judge announced a formal probe into the financial activities in France of Bongo, his ally President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

A complaint filed by Transparency International France accused the leaders, who deny any wrongdoing, of acquiring millions of dollars of real estate in Paris and on the French Riviera and buying luxury cars with embezzled public money.

Bongo first entered the Gabonese government in 1965 and became vice president in 1967. He took over as head of state that year after the sudden death of the country's first post-independence leader Leon Mba.

He built a powerful dynasty in the country which has benefited from the discovery of oil, although much of the wealth is concentrated in a small proportion of the 1.5 million population.

The president's wife, Edith Lucie Bongo Odimba, daughter of Congo President Nguesso, died in Morocco in March at the age of 45 after a long illness.

AFP / Expatica

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