Gabon President Omar Bongo Dead at 73

In office since 1967, he was world's longest-serving leader
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2009 12:35 PM CDT
In this Friday July 27, 2007 file photo, President of Gabon Omar Bongo, right, waves to bystanders from an open car during a motorcade with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in Libreville, Gabon.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, file)
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(Newser) – Gabonese President Omar Bongo has died of cardiac arrest at age 73, the BBC reports. Bongo has led Gabon since 1967, which made him the longest serving president in the world. Bongo has been in a hospital in Barcelona since May, and prior rumors of his death had sparked panic in Gabon, with food stockpiling threatening to close shops.

The head of the Senate, a Bongo ally, will step into his job for now, but an election must be held within 45 days. Opposition leaders are already questioning whether that election will be free or fair. Though government officials said Bongo, who was facing a French corruption investigation, was only in the hospital for a checkup, there were reports that he had cancer.