Omar Bongo - Libreville - 072005

Alhaji Omar Bongo Ondimba (30 December 1935 – 8 June 2009), born as Albert-Bernard Bongo, was a Gabonese politician who was President of Gabon for 41 years from 1967 until his death in office in 2009.


Omar Bongo was promoted to key positions as a young official under Gabon's first President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, before being elevated to Vice-President from 1966 to 1967, eventually succeeding M'ba to become Gabon's second President upon the latter's death in 1967.
Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when he was forced to introduce multi-party politics in Gabon in the face of great public pressure. He then survived intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s, succeeding in consolidating power again mainly by bringing most of the major opposition leaders of the 1990s over to his side. He was re-elected in an extremely controversial 1993 presidential election, and again in the subsequent elections of 1998 and 2005, with his respective majorities increasing and the opposition becoming more subdued on each election. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-serving non-monarch ruler. He was one of the longest serving rulers in history.


Bongo was criticized for in effect having worked for himself, his family and local elites and not for Gabon and its people. For instance, French green politician Eva Joly claimed that during Bongo's long reign, despite an oil-led GDP per capita growth to one of the highest levels in Africa, Gabon built only 5 km of freeway a year and still had one of the world's highest infant mortality rates by the time of his death in 2009.


After Bongo's death in June 2009, his son Ali Bongo—who had long been assigned key ministerial responsibilities by his father—was elected to succeed him in August 2009.

 

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