By Fanny Pigeaud
Libreville - Oil-rich Gabon's ruling party on Sunday named Ali Bongo Ondimba, son of late president and Africa's longest-serving leader Omar Bongo Ondimba, as its candidate for August presidential elections.
Amid the cheers of hundreds of delegates to a special party congress Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) chief Faustin Boukoubi asked Bongo to carry the party flag "high so he can win the August 30 (vote) outright."
Bongo, who has a reputation for being ambitious, said he would seek to unite the country across party lines.
"I propose to all Gabonese women and men to act together so we can look toward the future with confidence," he told the delegates thanking them for their choice.
Bongo said he was well "aware of the legitimate concerns" of the people and pledged to "redistribute the proceeds of economic growth" and fight corruption and fraud, well-known scourges of a nation of less than 1,5 million.
"I commit myself before you today to building together a real project of national unity and cohesion," he said.
Born Alain Bernard Bongo on February 9, 1959 in Brazzaville, Congo where his late father did his military service in the French colonial army, he went to school in Libreville and later in France where he became a doctor of law.
He chose his name Ali when he converted to Islam.
While in France he also dabbled in music and even recorded an album, A Brand New Man, in 1977, which was produced by James Brown's former manager, Charles Bobitt.
He also speaks Arabic.
Bongo was foreign minister 1989-1991, when he quit as under a new constitution he had to be at least 35 to be a minister, when he was only 32.
He was a member of parliament 1991-1998 and was named to head the key defence ministry in 1999. He resigned along with the rest of the government of Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong on Friday.
Eyeghe Ndong was replaced as head of government and PDG deputy chief by Paul Biyoghe Mba but his new cabinet was not immediately known.
The outgoing prime minister, who failed to win a nomination from the ruling party, said he would contest the presidential election as an independent.
He criticised the party on Sunday for having failed to abide by normal procedure in choosing its candidate.
But party party chief Boukoubi said the PDG had chosen the "most dynamic candidate, one who is the most likely to make the necessary changes."
The West African country is currently being ruled by Senate speaker Rose Francine Rogombe, who was swiftly sworn in as interim president on June 10 to prevent a power vacuum after the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba last month.
Bongo's father had held power for 41 years.
Eight other politicians have announced an interest in running for president, with the main opposition candidate Pierre Mamboundou on Sunday securing backing from a coalition of five parties.
Meanwhile, Gabon's new prime minister, Paul Biyoghe Mba, will now name his government on Monday, a source in his office said. - Sapa-AFP