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Dynastic succession for next president?

Text by: Marie Sophie JOUBERT
3 min

The Gabonese electoral commission has proposed to hold the presidential election on August 30. One of the candidates is Ali Bongo, assuming the ticket left vacant by his father Omar Bongo, who died June 8.


Ali Bongo can officially smile after weeks of mourning. After having long kept his presidential ambitions quiet, Ali Bongo, The son of late President Omar Bongo could now well be on the fast-track to the presidential palace.

Bongo Junior was selected as the presidential candidate Wednesday by the central committee of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG). And there is no obstacle left on his path to power. The Council of Ministers hasn't rules that the election is premature, and his selection has been approved by the party congress.

Speaking about the moment of his selection, PDG secretary general Faustin Boukoub said to AFP, "Everybody stood up and clapped their hands. For the moment, nobody is disputing his nomination.” The opposition, however, does not believe the party unanimously backed Ali.

Furthermore, Ben Mubamba, a member of Free Actors of the Gabonese Civil Society said, “This is an anti¬-democratic choice.”

According to the Gabon daily newspaper L’Union on July 11, “corridor dealings were underway" to reason with those who disagreed with their superiors.

A “scared” population

Mumbamba went on to say, "At least his father had the decency to convene the congress. Ali got soviet-style backing from an 18-member committee.” In Mumbamba’s opinion, Bongo is taking advantage of the grief over his father’s death to attract the votes of a “scared” population.


Gabonians are wary of a dynastic republic and therefore Ali Bongo is not necessarily set for an easy ride with voters. Sections of the population regard Bongo a stranger due to his spending much of his childhood in France. There has also been a persistent and unfounded rumour that Bongo was actually born in Biafra, the secessionist state of Nigeria, and was secretly adopted by the former president of Gabon.

He has many crisitcs, some who refer to him as “Baby Zeus” in reference to his pampered childhood and others who point out his “playboy” lifestyle. Apparently his own family has doubts about his leadership potential; his sister Pascaline - former director of the cabinet and right-hand advisor to the defunct president - did not initially back his bid. However, she did eventually decide to throw her support behind him.

His own father, Omar Bongo even hesitated to endorse him. This being despite the fact that he appointed him defence minister in 1997 and appointed him vice-president of the PDG.

His ducks in a row

Ali Bongo, who is currently defence minister, has patiently nurtured those who may help him on his path to power and those in strategic posts: the army staff officer, the head of police, the national security council, military intelligence, and the republican guard. It is a well-oiled machine that the opposition constantly worries about.

Once the death of his father was announced, the former party animal ordered the closing of the border, “to show who has the upper hand,” according to Antoine Glaser, director of The Continental Letter.

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