Who is Ali Bongo, the President of Gabon’s ‘Dynastic Politics’ who was Overthrown?

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba was ousted by a military coup minutes after the Electoral Commission announced the election results in which he purportedly won the presidency for the third time on Wednesday, August 30.
“On behalf of the people of Gabon, we have decided to maintain peace by ending the current regime,” a group of military elites stated through Gabon 24 television channel.

The military elites claimed to represent all of Gabon’s security and defense forces in this coup. They also declared the annulment of the election results, the dissolution of all government institutions, and the closure of the country’s borders until further notice.

President Ali Bongo has been Gabon’s leader for 14 years, succeeding his father, Omar Bongo, who passed away in 2009.

He recently participated in the general elections on Saturday, August 26, and was declared president again after receiving 64.27% of the votes, defeating his rival Albert Ondo Ossa, who garnered 30.77% of the votes.

However, this ongoing coup has significantly undermined the power that he and his family have built over these 55 years.

His father, Omar, ruled Gabon for 41 years since 1967. After Omar’s death, Ali Bongo continued in leadership until the present day.

Ali Bongo was born in Brazzaville, Congo, which was then part of the French colonial empire.

He initially aspired to become a funk singer. He even released an album titled “A Brand New Man” in 1978. However, his career in the entertainment world was short-lived. Three years later, his father introduced him to the world of politics.

A Family of Oil Entrepreneurs

Omar Bongo was known for being a kleptocrat and one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, thanks to his wealth from Gabon’s oil.

During his father’s rule, Bongo worked as a loyal lieutenant to his father. He traveled the world and established contacts with potential parties when oil prices were soaring.

Despite mingling with influential people, critics noted that Bongo lacked strong communication skills like his father. He couldn’t speak Gabon’s local language despite receiving a relatively high education.

He also faced criticism for being born out of wedlock and abroad. For years, there were speculations that he was an adopted foreigner by his parents.

His hedonistic attitude, especially regarding luxurious cars, often baffled the Gabonese population. This was because he indulged in a lavish lifestyle amid significant social inequality in the country.

In 1989, Bongo was appointed as Foreign Minister at the age of 30. However, he resigned two years later as the constitution required cabinet members to be at least 35 years old.

He returned to the government in 1999 as Minister of Defense. He held the position of Defense Minister until finally becoming president after his father’s death.