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2009-20xx - Ali Bongo

President Ali Bongo was declared victorious on 31 August 2016 by a razor-thin margin of just under 6,000 votes. His main challenger in yhr presidential election, Jean Ping, a veteran diplomat and former top African Union official, insisted the vote was rigged and claimed victory for himself. The post-vote violence in this small but oil-rich central African nation has sparked international concern, with top diplomats calling for restraint as rights groups raised the alarm over the use of "excessive force". At issue were the results from one province where the results showed nearly 100 percent voter turnout, with Bongo receiving 95 percent of the votes.

Buildings throughout downtown Libreville, including the National Assembly, were set ablaze. There were also attempts to set fire to City Hall, the broadcasting house, a state newspaper’s headquarters and various residences. The city hall in Gabon’s second largest city and major seaport, Port-Gentil, was burned down. Most of the protesters were young men in their 20s, but it was unclear whether people who have taken to the streets are making a political statement or simply taking advantage of the situation. Whenever there is a political crisis, people would go outside and begin looting whatever is out there.

The US Embassy stated that voters were not well served by the many systemic flaws and irregularities that we witnessed. The late openings of many polling stations, delayed arrival of polling officials and party representatives, last minute changes to voting procedures, and poor understanding of existing rules, regulations and procedures contributed to confusion at many polling places.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a recount of Gabon's presidential election result and called for clarification on the whereabouts of 15 French nationals missing since violent protests against incumbent Ali Bongo was declared the victor with a 6,000-vote majority. "There needs to be a clear electoral process," Valls told French radio station RTL on 06 September 2016. "There are arguments and some doubts. European observers in the country have already made criticisms on the basis of objectives. It would be wise to have a recount."

Gabon's Justice Minister Seraphin Moundounga resigned over the disputed re-election of Bongo, becoming the first high-level government official to step down since the vote. Moundounga told Radio France International Monday that the government is not responding to concerns about the need for peace, leading him to decide to step down.

On June 8, 2009, President Omar Bongo died of cardiac arrest at a Spanish hospital in Barcelona, ushering in a new era in Gabonese politics. In discussions of succession, Ali Bongo's name was generally the first one mentioned. Along with his name, however, came many reasons why he could not or should not succeed his father. The "disqualifications" included relatively impersonal assertions that he lacked a connection to the grassroots (he does not, for example, speak his own village language) or that France would never stand for a President Ali Bongo (he speaks excellent English and is seen by the French as too close to the US).

There were also bizarre slanders circulating, including allegations that he is really Nigerian rather than Gabonese, or that he is homosexual. That no other possible candidates attracted anywhere near as much "mud" is testimony to Ali Bongo's initial prominence in the succession sweepstakes.

Gabonese politics were defined by whether one is for or against Ali Bongo. Even without an obvious alternative to rally around, ordinary citizens and senior officials objected to the creation of what some openly called a monarchy. There were rumors that Ali Bongo is a Biafran orphan adopted by his parents in the mid-1960s - apparently specious rumors that both Ali Bongo and his mother, a popular Gabonese singer, have felt compelled to publicly refute. Ali Bongo spent much of his youth and early adulthood abroad in France and the United States, where he dabbled in music promotion.

Smart and ruthless, Ali Bongo lacked his father's talent for building alliances. There were both overt and covert challenges to his rise from political opponents and from inside his powerful family. Ali Bongo's success ultimately depended on his political skill and the loyalty of Gabon's security forces. Should Ali's grip weaken, it was far from clear what other figure - from the current ruling elite, from the fractured political opposition, or from the shadowy ranks of the armed forces - would emerge to claim the presidency.

Son of the President Omar Bongo Ondimba and Josephine Kama, Ali Bongo Ondimba was born in Brazzaville on February 9, 1959. In 1965, he continued his primary and secondary education in France. After graduation, he was admitted to the University of Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne, where he obtained a doctorate in law. Although he was an unlikely prospect to succeed his father when he returned to Gabon in the late 1980s, his subsequent ascent was extraordinarily rapid.

After graduation, he entered the Presidential Cabinet and became the Personal Representative and High Representative of the President of the Republic. Ali Bongo Ondimba entered the Gabonese politics in 1981 when he was only twenty-two years, through active involvement in the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). Ali Bongo Ondimba actively campaigning in the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) in 1981, allowing it to be first elected to the Central Committee before joining the Politburo in 1984, as Representative of the Secretary General founder. In 1986, after a party congress where he led the reformist wing, it is confirmed in office.

In 1989, Ali Bongo Ondimba was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (1989-91) in the government of Casimir OYE MBA. He then ran as a candidate of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) in the parliamentary elections of 1990, the first election held after the return of multiparty system in Gabon. Elected in the province of Haut-Ogooué, Ali Bongo Ondimba became deputy CEO at the National Assembly, mandate it retains after leaving government in 1991.

Alongside his political career, Ali Bongo Ondimba was elected President of the Superior Council of Islamic Affairs of Gabon (CSAIG) in 1996. In December of the same year, he was also re-elected MP for the province of Haut-Ogooué.

Ali Bongo deputized for his father as head of Gabon's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and, like his father and much of Gabon's political elite, is a member of an influential Masonic lodge. And in a clear break with the past practice of the Omar Bongo regime, all security forces, including the elite Republican Guard, had since 2008 been headed by individuals believed to be allies of a single person -- Ali Bongo.

Having served more than seven years in the National Assembly, Ali Bongo Ondimba rejoined the government in 1999 as Minister of National Defence. He then took the initiative of multiple projects: the creation of the military academy for the academic and military training of Gabonese and African youth; Hospital building instruction of hosts, a performance structure open to civilian populations; many provisions to upgrade military life such as the renewal of equipment; strengthening of defense capabilities; the construction of new structures (barracks).

In accordance with the amended constitution, Rose Francine Rogombe, the President of the Senate, became Interim President on June 10, 2009. The first contested elections in Gabon’s history that did not include Omar Bongo as a candidate were held on August 30, 2009 with 18 candidates for president. The lead-up to the elections saw some isolated protests, but no significant disturbances.

In July 2009, after the primaries in the party, Ali Bongo Ondimba was designated candidate of the Gabonese Democratic party (PDG) in the early presidential election in 2009. Omar Bongo’s son, ruling party leader Ali Bongo Ondimba, was formally declared the winner after a 3-week review by the Constitutional Court; his inauguration took place on October 16, 2009.

A comfortable, persuasive interlocutor with foreigners, Ali Bongo nevertheless affected exasperation with France - and behind his back, officials at the French Embassy in Libreville said little positive about Ali. Ali Bongo can also be awkward among fellow Gabonese politicians, some of whom complain that he is gruff and distant. Though arguably less venal than some fellow family members, Ali Bongo inherited the family predilection for fancy cars and other emblems of conspicuous wealth. Observers across the political spectrum nevertheless gave him credit for skillful maneuvering in the succession contest. A self-described reformer, Ali Bongo also cultivated a cadre of younger, reform-minded political "renovators" who sought with mixed success to modernize the PDG and the government.

Ali Bongo's most important constituency, and the key to his ability to claim the presidency, is the security forces. As defense minister, Bongo oversaw significant improvements in the pay, housing, equipment, training and other benefits for the army, navy, air force, Republican Guard and paramilitary gendarmerie. A political ally, Interior Minister Andre Mba Obame, oversaw the National Police, who have not been has heavily favored. While Bongo succeeded in placing key allies in senior positions in various security forces - many of them ethnic Teke and a few of them his relatives - he may have done so at the cost of creating real but hidden frustration among non-Teke officers and enlisted personnel. In any case, several of the senior officers sidelined or retired as Ali Bongo consolidated control had ill feelings toward him, and retained at least residual influence in the armed forces.

After taking office in 2009, President Ali Bongo Ondimba introduced reforms to diversify Gabon’s economy away from oil and from traditional investment partners (mainly France), and to position Gabon as an emerging economy.

In November 2009, President Bongo Ondimba announced a new vision for the modernization of Gabon, called "Gabon Emergent." In his Emergent Gabon strategic plan, he laid out a vision for sustainable development by 2025 through creating domestic industrial capacity to process primary materials and by becoming a regional leader in service industries including financial services, ICT, education, and healthcare.

This program contains three pillars: Green Gabon, Service Gabon, and Industrial Gabon. The goals of Gabon Emergent are to diversify the economy so that Gabon becomes less reliant on petroleum, to eliminate corruption, and to modernize the workforce. Under this program, exports of raw timber have been banned, a government-wide census was held, the work day has been changed to eliminate a long midday break, and a national oil company was created.

President Bongo Ondimba began efforts to streamline the government, eliminating 17 minister-level positions. He also abolished the vice president position and reorganized the portfolios of numerous ministries, bureaus, and directorates with the intention of reducing corruption and government bloat.

Gabon's President Ali Bongo was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia after suffering a stroke, two sources told Reuters, while Gabonese authorities said he was admitted only because of fatigue. Bongo on 29 October 2018 remained under observation at the King Faisal hospital in Riyadh where he was taken on 24 October 2018. A medical and a diplomatic source both told Reuters that the president suffered a stroke.

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Page last modified: 04-11-2018 17:53:47 ZULU