Gabon appoints first woman prime minister amid government shakeup

Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda.
Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda.
Twitter/PresidentABO

Gabon President Ali Bongo on Thursday promoted his defence minister, Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, to prime minister on Thursday, the first time a woman has held the role in the country.

Ossouka Raponda, 56, is the sixth prime minister appointed since Bongo succeeded his father in 2009. Her first job is to form a new government after her predecessor, Julien Nkoghe Bekale, stepped down earlier in the day.

She will take on two major challenges: declining oil production and prices, which have weighed on growth in recent years, and the Covid-19 pandemic. The Central African country has registered nearly 6 000 cases to date.

Ossouka Raponda will also have to navigate a delicate political scene that was shaken up when Bongo, 61, had a stroke in 2018, followed by a long medical leave abroad, during which there was a brief coup attempt.

Bongo's recovery has been slow and rare television appearances show him still struggling to walk.

Ossouka Raponda was named budget minister eight years ago before being elected mayor of the capital Libreville in 2014, becoming the first woman to hold that position since 1956. She has served as defence minister since February 2019.

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