Thousands greet Gabon opposition leader’s coffin

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Tens of thousands of people turned out in Gabon’s capital Libreville on Tuesday to greet the coffin bearing the body of longtime opposition figure Andre Mba Obame, who died earlier this month in Cameroon.

Thousands greet Gabon opposition leader’s coffin

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Tens of thousands greet Gabon opposition leader’s coffin

ATTENTION – ADDS details, quotes from supporters ///

LIBREVILLE, April 28, 2015 (AFP) – Tens of thousands of people turned out in Gabon’s capital Libreville on Tuesday to greet the coffin bearing the body of longtime opposition figure Andre Mba Obame, who died earlier this month in Cameroon.

The huge crowd at the airport shouted support for the former leader, popularly known as AMO, and waved palm branches and repeatedly sang the national anthem.

Many people were in tears as they joined a huge cortege surrounding a pick-up truck that carried the coffin, draped in the Gabonese flag, to a stadium for a celebration of Mba Obame’s life.

It took several hours for the peaceful march, which was monitored by numerous police officers, to reach its destination.

Obame, who was aged 57 and had been plagued by serious health problems, died in Cameroon on April 12, five years after mounting a major challenge to Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba in elections in 2009.

Watching the huge turnout, Raymond, 22, who was wearing a “AMO forever” T-shirt, said: “You see all these people — it’s proof that he won the election in 2009.”

A powerful former interior minister, Mba Obame joined the opposition after the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had been in power for 41 years and was father of current President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

Mba Obame left Gabon in 2011 after declaring himself elected head of state, refusing to recognise Bongo’s 2009 election victory.

“We’re tired. Forty-five years of the Bongo family in power,” said one young man. “Gabon is finished with them. We are fed up.”

“Times have changed, but our African dictators refuse to accept it,” said Assia, a young woman. “Today we have the Internet, we see what’s happening in Europe.”

“Their children are educated in school. We want the same rights,” she added.

After Mba Obame became sick, some of his supporters claimed he had been poisoned, pointing fingers at Bongo’s cabinet director, Maixent Accrombessi, who comes from Benin but has taken Gabonese nationality.

When he died, opposition supporters rampaged through Libreville, setting fire to cars and buildings, including Benin’s embassy.

After a mass Wednesday in Libreville, Mba Obame’s body will be taken to his native region in northern Gabon.

Tags : Coffin, leaders, opposition, Gabon, Greet, thousands

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