Ali-Ben Bongo

Ali-Ben Bongo

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Ali Bongo Ondimba is a Gabon
Gabon
Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

ese politician who has been President of Gabon since October 2009.

Bongo is the son of Omar Bongo
Omar Bongo
El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba , born as Albert-Bernard Bongo, was a Gabonese politician who was President of Gabon for 42 years from 1967 until his death in office in 2009....

, who was President of Gabon
Gabon
Gabon , officially the Gabonese Republic is a state in west central Africa sharing borders with Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, and with the Republic of the Congo curving around the east and south. The Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean is to the west...

 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
Bongoville
Bongoville is a town in south eastern Gabon, lying east of Franceville. It was known as Lewai until its renaming for President Omar Bongo, who was born in what was then a village but was greatly enlarged under his presidency. It lies just west of the Bateke Plateau and is home to a large stadium....

 as a Deputy in the National Assembly
National Assembly of Gabon
The National Assembly of Gabon is the lower house of the Parliament of Gabon. It has 120 members, 111 members elected for a five year term in single-seat constituencies and 9 members appointed by the President.-Latest results:...

 from 1991 to 1999; subsequently he was Minister of Defense
Defence minister
A defence minister is a person in a cabinet position in charge of a Ministry of Defence, which regulates the armed forces in some sovereign nations...

 from 1999 to 2009. He is a Vice-President of the Gabonese Democratic Party
Gabonese Democratic Party
The Gabonese Democratic Party , is the ruling and dominant political party of Gabon. Its motto is Dialogue, Tolerance, Peace.It has held power since independence, first under Léon M'ba , then under Omar Bongo...

 (PDG) and was the PDG's candidate in the August 2009 presidential election
Gabonese presidential election, 2009
A presidential election was held in Gabon on 30 August 2009 after the incumbent President Omar Bongo Ondimba died on 8 June 2009. While the constitution stated that Interim President Rose Francine Rogombé should organise elections within 30 to 45 days, the Constitutional Court accepted the...

, which followed his father's death. According to official results, he won the election with 42% of the vote.

Early life and political career


Bongo was born in Brazzaville
Brazzaville
-Transport:The city is home to Maya-Maya Airport and a railway station on the Congo-Ocean Railway. It is also an important river port, with ferries sailing to Kinshasa and to Bangui via Impfondo...

 as the son of Albert-Bernard Bongo (later Omar Bongo Ondimba
Omar Bongo
El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba , born as Albert-Bernard Bongo, was a Gabonese politician who was President of Gabon for 42 years from 1967 until his death in office in 2009....

) and Josephine Kama
Patience Dabany
Patience Marie Josephine Kama Dabany , also known by the names Marie Joséphine Kama and Josephine Bongo, is a Gabonese singer and musician. For nearly 30 years she was married to Omar Bongo Ondimba, who was President of Gabon from 1967 to 2009. After their divorce, she successfully pursued a career...

 (later Patience Dabany). Being conceived 18 months before Albert-Bernard's marriage, he is widely rumoured to be Bongo's adopted son, a claim that he dismisses. 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.

Bongo held the post of High Personal Representative of the President of the Republic from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, his father appointed him to the government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Foreign minister
A Minister of Foreign Affairs, or foreign minister, is a cabinet minister who helps form the foreign policy of a sovereign state. The foreign minister is often regarded as the most senior ministerial position below that of the head of government . It is often granted to the deputy prime minister in...

, replacing Martin Bongo
Martin Bongo
Martin Bongo is a Gabon political figure and diplomat. He was the Foreign Minister of Gabon from 1976 to 1989.Bongo, a nephew of President Omar Bongo, was born in Lekei, located in Haut-Ogooué Province...

. He was considered a reformist within the ruling PDG in the early 1990s. In the 1990 parliamentary election
Gabonese legislative election, 1990
Parliamentary elections were held in Gabon in 1990, the first multy-party elections in the country since 1967. The first round of voting was held on 16 September, with a second round due the following week. However, results from 32 of the 120 constituencies were annulled after public protests...

 (the first election after the introduction of multiparty politics), he was elected to the National Assembly
National Assembly of Gabon
The National Assembly of Gabon is the lower house of the Parliament of Gabon. It has 120 members, 111 members elected for a five year term in single-seat constituencies and 9 members appointed by the President.-Latest results:...

 as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. 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.

Following his departure from the government, Bongo took up his seat as a Deputy in the National Assembly in 1991. In February 1992, he organized a visit by American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 pop singer Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
Michael Joseph Jackson was an American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman. Referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records...

 to Gabon.

Bongo became President of the Higher Council of Islamic Affairs of Gabon (Conseil supérieur des affaires islamiques du Gabon, CSAIG) in 1996. Prior to the December 1996 parliamentary election, a supporter of Defense Minister Idriss Ngari
Idriss Ngari
Idriss Ngari is a Gabonese politician and army general. A relative of President Omar Bongo, Ngari rose rapidly through the ranks of the army, ultimately serving as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces from 1984 to 1994...

 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
Jean-Boniface Assélé
Jean-Boniface Assélé is a Gabonese politician and the President of the Circle of Liberal Reformers . He served in the government of Gabon from 1975 to 1990 and again from 2004 to 2009. He was also Commander-in-Chief of the National Police Forces from 1970 to 1989 and held the rank of General...

, one of his key political allies. After over seven years as a Deputy, Bongo was appointed to the government as Minister of National Defense on January 25, 1999.

In the December 2001 parliamentary election
Gabonese legislative election, 2001
Gabon held a parliamentary election on 9 December 2001.-Results:...

, Bongo was elected to the National Assembly as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. At the PDG's Eighth Ordinary Congress in July 2003, he was elected as a Vice-President of the PDG. During the 2005 presidential election
Gabonese presidential election, 2005
Gabon held a presidential election on 27 November 2005. Incumbent President Omar Bongo Ondimba, in power since 1967 , sought another seven-year term against four other candidates. According to an announcement of results by the country's interior minister, Bongo won the election with 79.2% of the vote...

, he worked on his father's re-election campaign as Coordinator-General of Youth. Following that election, he was promoted to the rank of Minister of State on January 21, 2006, while retaining the defense portfolio.

Bongo was re-elected to the National Assembly in the December 2006 parliamentary election
Gabonese legislative election, 2006
A legislative election was held in Gabon on 17 December 2006 ....

 as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. 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. At the PDG's Ninth Ordinary Congress in September 2008, he was re-elected as a Vice-President of the PDG.

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".

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. 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".


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. 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. 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.

Despite standing as a presidential candidate, Bongo was retained as Minister of Defense in the government appointed on 22 July 2009. Rogombé urged calm and called for the candidates to be "worthy" of the votes they would receive. The opposition strongly protested Bongo's continued inclusion in the government. After Interim President Rose Francine Rogombé
Rose Francine Rogombé
Rose Francine Rogombé is a Gabonese politician who was Acting President of Gabon from June 2009 to October 2009, following the death of long-time President Omar Bongo. She constitutionally succeeded Bongo due to her role as President of the Senate, a post to which she was elected in February 2009...

 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.

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
Port-Gentil
Port-Gentil or Mandji is the second-largest city of Gabon and a leading seaport. It is the center of Gabon's petroleum and timber industries. Although it lies inshore, the nearby mainland is a remote forest area and it is not connected by road to the rest of the nation...

. 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
Paul Biyoghé Mba
Paul Biyoghé Mba is a Gabonese politician who has been Prime Minister of Gabon since July 2009. A member of the Gabonese Democratic Party , he served for years as a minister in the government prior to his appointment as Prime Minister....

 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". The composition of Biyoghe Mba's new government was announced on 17 October; 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
Paul Toungui
Paul Toungui is a Gabonese politician. He has served in the government of Gabon since 1990 and is currently the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, La Francophonie, and Regional Integration.-Political career:...

 (Foreign Minister), Jean-François Ndongou (Interior Minister), and Laure Olga Gondjout
Laure Olga Gondjout
Laure Olga Gondjout is a Gabonese politician. She has served in the government since 2006 and is currently the Minister of Communication, Posts, Telecommunications, and New Information Technologies....

 (Communications Minister), retained their posts.

Family


Ali Bongo's first wife is American Inge Lynn Collins Bongo, from Los Angeles, California. His second wife, Sylvia Najma Valentin, is the daughter of Édouard Valentin. Édouard's wife Evelyne works in the secretariat of the Presidency, and Édouard is Chargé des affaires sociales at the Gabonese Employers Confederation (Confédération patronale gabonaise, CPG).

He has four children, a daughter, Malika Bongo Ondimba, and three sons, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, Jalil Bongo Valentin and Bilal Bongo, whom he and Sylvia adopted in 2002.. Bongo is a keen sportsman, competing for Gabon in the Discus
Discus
Discus, "disk" in Latin, may refer to:* Discus , a progressive rock band from Indonesia* Discus , a fictional character from the Marvel Comics Universe and enemy of Luke Cage* Discus , a freshwater fish popular with aquarium keepers...

 during his youth. He has also played in several minor African snooker tournaments.

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