CAR mourns Bongo

Bangui - President Francois Bozize of the Central African Republic on Tuesday announced seven days of national mourning for the late Gabonese leader Omar Bongo Ondimba, who helped mediate peace in the CAR.

"National mourning of seven days, with flags at half-mast, is observed over the whole Centrafrican territory on the occasion of the death of President El Hajd Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon", said a presidential decree.

Bozize also went on state radio and television to pay tribute to Bongo in a speech in the national Sango language.

He also declared that a requiem mass for Gabon's veteran leader, whose death in a Spanish hospital was announced on Monday, will be said on Wednesday afternoon at a large Bangui stadium.

"I've declared this period of seven days of mourning because of all that President Omar Bongo Ondimba did for peace in Centrafrica. He proved to be more patriotic than certain compatriots," Bozize said during his speech.

The landlocked CAR, one of Africa's poorest countries, has long been gripped by insurgency and Bozize himself initially came to power in 2003 in a military coup to oust Ange-Felix Patasse, before later becoming the elected head of state.

In 2007, after mediation by Bongo, the Bangui government signed a number of peace accords with rebel movements, several of them under the aegis of the Gabonese leader, who died aged 73, after 41 years in power.

Breakaway rebel movements and bandit gangs are still active in the north of the CAR, but the 2007 accords made provisions for disarmament operations that have been under way since, helped along by a UN peacekeeping force.

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