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Ali Bongo Ondimba

Incumbent
Assumed office 
16 October 2009
Prime Minister Paul Biyoghé Mba
Vice President Didjob Divungi Di Ndinge
Preceded by Rose Francine Rogombé (Acting)

Born 9 February 1959 (1959-02-09) (age 51)
Brazzaville, French Equatorial Africa (now Congo-Brazzaville)
Political party PDG
Alma mater University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne
Religion Islam

Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba (born Alain Bernard Bongo on February 9, 1959[1]) is a Gabonese politician who is currently President of Gabon following his victory in the 2009 presidential election.

Bongo is the son of Omar Bongo, who was President of Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009. During his father's presidency, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1991 and represented Bongoville as a Deputy in the National Assembly from 1991 to 1999; subsequently he was Minister of Defense from 1999 to 2009. He is a Vice-President of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG)[2] and was the PDG's candidate in the August 2009 presidential election, which followed his father's death.[3] According to official results, he won the election with 42% of the vote.[4]

Contents

Early life and political career

Bongo was born in Brazzaville[1] as the son of Albert-Bernard (later Omar) Bongo and Josephine Kama (later Patience Dabany). Being conceived 18 months before Albert-Bernard's marriage, he is widely rumoured to be Bongo's adopted son,[5] a claim that he dismisses.[6] After studying law, he entered politics, joining the PDG in 1981; he was elected to the PDG Central Committee at the party's Third Extraordinary Congress in March 1983. Subsequently he was his father's Personal Representative to the PDG and in that capacity he entered the PDG Political Bureau in 1984. He was then elected to the Political Bureau at an ordinary party congress in September 1986.[7]

Bongo held the post of High Personal Representative of the President of the Republic from 1987 to 1989.[1] In 1989, his father appointed him to the government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation,[1][8] replacing Martin Bongo.[8] He was considered a reformist within the ruling PDG in the early 1990s.[9][6] In the 1990 parliamentary election (the first election after the introduction of multiparty politics), he was elected to the National Assembly as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province.[1] After two years as Foreign Minister, a 1991 constitutional amendment setting a minimum age of 35 for ministers resulted in his departure from the government.[6]

Following his departure from the government, Bongo took up his seat as a Deputy in the National Assembly in 1991.[7] In February 1992,[10] he organized a visit by American pop singer Michael Jackson to Gabon.[11]

Bongo became President of the Higher Council of Islamic Affairs of Gabon (Conseil supérieur des affaires islamiques du Gabon, CSAIG) in 1996.[1] Prior to the December 1996 parliamentary election, a supporter of Defense Minister Idriss Ngari challenged Bongo for the PDG nomination to his parliamentary seat, but Bongo was successful in winning the nomination and retaining the seat. In surviving that challenge, he benefited from the assistance of his maternal uncle Jean-Boniface Assélé, one of his key political allies.[12] After over seven years as a Deputy,[7] Bongo was appointed to the government as Minister of National Defense on January 25, 1999.[13]

In the December 2001 parliamentary election, Bongo was elected to the National Assembly as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province.[1] At the PDG's Eighth Ordinary Congress in July 2003, he was elected as a Vice-President of the PDG.[7] During the 2005 presidential election, he worked on his father's re-election campaign as Coordinator-General of Youth.[14] Following that election, he was promoted to the rank of Minister of State on January 21, 2006, while retaining the defense portfolio.[13]

Bongo was re-elected to the National Assembly in the December 2006 parliamentary election as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province.[15] He retained his post as Minister of State for National Defense after that election, although he was subsequently reduced to the rank of ordinary Minister on December 28, 2007.[13][16] At the PDG's Ninth Ordinary Congress in September 2008, he was re-elected as a Vice-President of the PDG.[7]

Succession

Omar Bongo died at a Spanish hospital on 8 June 2009. Ali Bongo appeared on television that night to call "for calm and serenity of heart and reverence to preserve the unity and peace so dear to our late father".[17]

Having been appointed to key positions by his father, it was widely considered likely that he would emerge as his father's successor following the latter's death in June 2009.[18][19] Some press reports predicted a power struggle, however, suggesting that a "fierce rivalry" exists between Bongo and his sister Pascaline, who was Director of the Presidential Cabinet. The degree of support for Ali Bongo within the PDG leadership was also questioned in the press, and it was argued that many Gabonese "see him as a spoilt child, born in Congo-Brazzaville, brought up in France, hardly able to speak indigenous languages and with the appearance of a hip hop star".[20]

Bongo was one of ten candidates who submitted applications to become the PDG's candidate in the early presidential election, scheduled for 30 August 2009.[21] PDG Deputy Secretary-General Angel Ondo announced on 16 July that the party leadership had chosen Bongo by consensus as the PDG candidate, although this decision still needed to be formally confirmed at a party congress.[3][22] An extraordinary PDG congress accordingly designated Bongo as the party's candidate on 19 July. On that occasion, he thanked delegates for their choice, saying he was "aware of the legitimate concerns" of the people; he vowed to battle corruption and "redistribute the proceeds of economic growth" as President.[23]

Despite standing as a presidential candidate, Bongo was retained as Minister of Defense in the government appointed on 22 July 2009.[24] Rogombé urged calm and called for the candidates to be "worthy" of the votes they would receive.[25] The opposition strongly protested Bongo's continued inclusion in the government. After Interim President Rose Francine Rogombé said that Bongo would be replaced so that all candidates would be on an equal footing for the election, Interior Minister Jean-François Ndongou was appointed to take over from Bongo as Minister of Defense in an interim capacity when the election campaign officially began on 15 August 2009.[26]

A few days after the election on 30 August 2009, it was announced that he had won the election with 42% of the vote, and that result was promptly confirmed by the Constitutional Court. The opposition rejected the official results, and riots broke out in Gabon's second city, Port-Gentil.[4] In response to allegations of fraud, the Constitutional Court conducted a recount before again declaring Bongo with winner with 41.79% of the vote on 12 October 2009; he was then sworn in as President on 16 October. Various African presidents were present for the ceremony. Bongo expressed a commitment to justice and the fight against corruption at the ceremony and said that fast action was needed to "give back confidence and promote the emergence of new hope". He also alluded to his father's governing philosophy of preserving stability through regional, tribal, and political balance in the allocation of power, while also stressing that "excellence, competence and work" were even more important than "geographical and political considerations". Later in the day, he announced the reappointment of Paul Biyoghe Mba as Prime Minister; he made the announcement personally "to underline the importance of this moment". According to Bongo, Biyoghe Mba had the necessary experience and managerial competence "to lead us through the next stage", and he said work would start "immediately".[27] The composition of Biyoghe Mba's new government was announced on 17 October;[28] it was reduced to only 30 ministers, thereby fulfilling Bongo's campaign promise to reduce the size of the government and thereby reduce expenses. The government was also mostly composed of new faces, including many technocrats, although a few key ministers, such as Paul Toungui (Foreign Minister), Jean-François Ndongou (Interior Minister), and Laure Olga Gondjout (Communications Minister), retained their posts.[29]

Family

Ali Bongo married Sylvia Ajma Valentin, daughter of Édouard Valentin. Édouard's wife Evelyne works in the secretariat of the Presidency,[30] and Édouard is Chargé des affaires sociales at the Gabonese Employers Confederation (Confédération patronale gabonaise, CPG).[31][32]

He has three children, a daughter Malika Bongo Ondimba and three sons, Noureddin Bongo Ondimba, Jalil Bongo Ondimba and Bilal Bongo Ondimba who was adopted by the couple in 2002.[32][33]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "BONGO Ali", GABON: LES HOMMES DE POUVOIR N°4, Africa Intelligence, 5 March 2002 (French).
  2. ^ PDG Vice-Presidents, PDG website (French).
  3. ^ a b "Bongo's son to be Gabon candidate in August poll", AFP, 16 July 2009.
  4. ^ a b "Unrest as dictator's son declared winner in Gabon", Associated Press, 3 September 2009.
  5. ^ Tous Ensemble Bloquons l'imposteur Anti-Ali election site
  6. ^ a b c Philippe Bernard, "Ali Ben Bongo, Monsieur Fils", Le Monde, 17 June 2009 (French).
  7. ^ a b c d e "Gabon: Le PDG explique le choix du candidat Ali Bongo Ondimba (Encadré)", Gabonews, 19 July 2009 (French).
  8. ^ a b James Franklin Barnes, Gabon: Beyond the Colonial Legacy (1992), page 57.
  9. ^ David E. Gardinier, "Gabon: Limited Reform and Regime Survival", Political Reform in Francophone Africa (1997), ed. Clark and Gardinier, Westview Press, page 153.
  10. ^ "A CROWNING GLORY FOR MICHAEL JACKSON", Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 February 1992, page D02.
  11. ^ "Africans mourn Jackson, but not without criticism", AFP, 26 June 2009.
  12. ^ Political Risk Yearbook, 1998.
  13. ^ a b c List of governments of Gabon, IZF.net (French).
  14. ^ "L'etat-major du candidat Bongo Ondimba désormais connu", L'Union (bdpgabon.org), 13 October 2005 (French).
  15. ^ "Liste des Députés par Circonscription", National Assembly website (accessed 5 January 2009) (French).
  16. ^ "Gabon : Le président Omar Bongo Ondimba remanie son gouvernement", Infosplusgabon, 29 December 2007 (French).
  17. ^ "Bongo's son appeals for calm as country goes into mourning", Radio France Internationale, 9 June 2009.
  18. ^ Gabon denies Omar Bongo's death BBC
  19. ^ Bongo son set for Gabon candidacy BBC
  20. ^ "Gabon: Ali Bongo - The Gabonese Karim Wade?". L'Observateur Paalga (Burkina Faso) (French). http://www.lobservateur.bf/spip.php?article11635. 
  21. ^ "Gabon: Dix candidats dont une femme pour la candidature du PDG à la prochaine présidentielle", Gabonews, 5 July 2009 (French).
  22. ^ "Bongo son set for Gabon candidacy", BBC News, 16 July 2009.
  23. ^ "Ali Bongo Ondimba: I commit myself before you" (IOL)
  24. ^ "Gabon: Un nouveau Gouvernement à une quarantaine de jours de la présidentielle anticipée", Gabonews, 23 July 2009 (French).
  25. ^ "Gabon: URGENT / Présidentielle 2009 / Rose Francine Rogombé aux 23 candidats « Soyez dignes des voix qui se porteront sur vous »", Gabonews, 14 August 2009 (French).
  26. ^ "Gabon: Jean François Ndongou, Ministre de l’Intérieur assure l'intérim du ministre de la Défense", Gabonews, 15 August 2009 (French).
  27. ^ "Bongo sworn in as Gabon president", AFP, 16 October 2009.
  28. ^ "Gabon: Liste complète du nouveau gouvernement gabonais", Gabonews, 17 October 2009 (French).
  29. ^ "Gabon: La taille du gouvernement rétrécie, un signal fort d’Ali Bongo Ondimba pour le respect des engagements de campagne", Gabonews, 18 October 2009 (French).
  30. ^ Mélange des genres
  31. ^ Edouard Valentin (Assurances) Infoplusgabon
  32. ^ a b "Ali Bongo Ondimba : Biographie officielle", Gaboneco, 9 août 2009.
  33. ^ [1]

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Martin Bongo
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
1989–1991
Succeeded by
Pascaline Mferri Bongo
Preceded by
Rose Francine Rogombé
Acting
President of Gabon
2009–present
Incumbent
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