New Gabonese president names new government

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gabon's new president Ali Ben Bongo has named his first government, after winning the country's recent presidential elections.

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

Paul Tongui remained the foreign minister. Jean Francois Ndoungou kept his job as interior minister. Angelique Ngoma was moved from her position as minister of families to the defense minister — the first time that a woman has held that post in Gabon.

President Bongo was defense minister in the previous government of his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June after ruling for forty years.

In all, a dozen members of the new government are veterans of the previous administration. However, 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. Prime Minister Mba said the move "is aimed primarily at efficiency".

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

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 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.

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

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