Bongo, Omar

Bongo, Omar (El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba) bôngˈgō [key], 1935–2009, Gabonese political leader, president of Gabon (1967–2009), b. Albert-Bernard Bongo. He entered the civil service (1958), became minister of information and tourism in 1966, vice president in 1967, and then succeeded to the presidency. He created a one-party state (1968) and was reelected in 1973, 1979, and 1986. His rule provided stability and attracted foreign investment but also led to corruption, including wealth for the president and his family, and political repression. Protests forced him to reinstate a multiparty system in 1990. Bongo was reelected in 1993 and 1998 in elections generally regarded as unfair by observers; he triumphed over a divided opposition again in 2005. He died in office.

His son, Ali Bongo (Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba), 1959–, b. Alain Bernard Bongo, succeeded him as president in 2009 after an election that the opposition denounced as fraudulent. Ali Bongo served as foreign minister (1989–91) and defense minister (1999–2009) as well as a deputy in the National Assembly before running for president. He was reelected in 2016, and the results were again denounced as rigged by the opposition. After a stroke in Oct., 2018, he was largely out of the country for treatment until Mar., 2019, and junior army officers attempted a coup in Jan., 2019.

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