Gabon's old guard hopes to unseat Bongo dynasty scion

2016-08-25 08:43
Incumbent Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba greets supporters as he arrives at a public gathering in Moanda. (Marco Longari, AFP)

Incumbent Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba greets supporters as he arrives at a public gathering in Moanda. (Marco Longari, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Libreville – The increasingly disgruntled people of Gabon go to the polls on Saturday in a presidential election in which a last-minute opposition pact has robbed incumbent Ali Bongo of a clear run at a second term.

Bongo, 57, has long sought to emerge from the shadow of his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the country of 1.8 million people for 41 years until he died in 2009.

The president's only credible challenger, former senior African Union official Jean Ping, 73, is carrying the flag for the old guard of Bongo senior's cronies.

It was only last week that protracted negotiations finally led the last of other prominent opposition hopefuls to give way to Ping.

Until then, their presidential ambitions would most likely have mathematically ensured Bongo won another seven years in office.

Nine other runners have a negligible chance of winning the election, which will be decided by a simple majority after a single round of voting.

Fears that the results will deliver unrest are fuelled by memories of the violence that followed Bongo's 2009 victory against Andre Mba Obame.

Several people were killed, buildings looted, a ceasefire imposed and the French consulate in the economic capital Port-Gentil torched.

There has been growing popular discontent and numerous public sector strikes in recent months.

Fears of violence

The country's economic woes are closely tied to the fall in the global price of oil, the mainstay of Gabon's perilously undiversified economy.

Thousands of oil workers have lost their jobs, according to the sector's main union, ONEP.

"If these people and their families express their frustration at the ballot box, well, that could end badly for the government's candidate," said ONEP's deputy head, Sylvain Mayabi-Binet.

"There are enough frustrated people for the slightest spark to send people into the streets," he added.

Bongo, 57, has campaigned under the slogan "Let's change together," playing up the roads and hospitals built during his first term and stressing the need to break with the bad old days of disappearing public funds and dodgy management of oil revenues.

The campaign period has been marked by months of bitter exchanges between the two camps, including accusations, and strenuous denials, that Bongo was born in Nigeria and therefore ineligible to run.

Ping's own roots – he is Sino-Gabonese – served as ammunition for Bongo's camp, which has suggested he and his son are secretly serving Chinese interests.

The two rivals go back a long way, having worked for years together under Bongo senior, who was responsible for getting Ping his job as chairperson of the African Union Commission.

Ping also has close family ties to the Bongo dynasty: he is the father of two children by Ali's sister.

Read more on:    ali bongo  |  gabon  |  central africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.