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Africa

Part one: A second Bongo for Gabon?

Text by Ségolène ALLEMANDOU

Latest update : 2009-09-04

With Gabon looking set to elect Ali Ben Bongo (photo), son of the late President Omar Bongo Ondima, into office, FRANCE 24 takes a look at African countries where power has been - or is likely soon to be - transferred from father to son.

Ali Ben Bongo

 

“There is no dauphin,” declared Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo as he basked in his sixth straight election victory in 2005, referring to the old French term for a king-in-waiting, usually the eldest son. “The succession is open,” he added.

  

But for many Gabonese, the succession has always been a done deal.

  

The country goes to the polls on August 30 to elect a new president after Bongo’s death in June.

 

Out of the 23 candidates, Ali Ben Bongo is the favourite to win in an election that will have just one round.

 

Ali Ben Bongo does not have his father’s charisma and ability to speak the various Gabonese dialects that made “Papa Bongo” so popular.

 

But the father was careful to teach his son the inner workings of power.

 

Ali Ben Bongo was appointed foreign minister in 1989 at the age of 30, although he had to step down after two years when it was written into the country's constitution that ministers had to be at least 35 years old.

 

In 1999 “Baby Zeus”, as Ali Ben Bongo was nicknamed, was made defence minister, a position he held on to until the 2009 election campaign and that allowed him to secure the loyalty and support of the military.

 

Last year, in France, Ali Ben Bongo was alleged to have taken advantage of his country’s wealth. He owns a large apartment in upmarket Avenue Foch in Paris, as well as two Ferraris, in contrast to the comparative poverty of his country.

 

Nevertheless, in the same year he was appointed head of the all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party founded by his father, and is favourite to win the upcoming election - largely down to the fractured nature of the opposition.

Date created : 2009-08-28

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