Signs are clear that Gabon will be subject to a dynastic rule, as late president Omar Bongo’s son, Ali-Ben Bongo, prepares to replace his father as president of the oil-rich country, come end August. Mr. Ali Bongo has sacked four Gabonese ministers who opposed his candidacy for next month’s presidential poll, in a show of power.
According to Africa analyst Paul Melly, “The PDG is overwhelmingly dominant. None of the opposition parties can really match it – unless there’s strong popular resistance to the idea of a continuation of the Bongo dynasty.”
The Bongo family has been accused of running the country as their private property. Rights groups had argued that no member of the former government should stand again, expressing particular concerns over Mr Bongo’s son, Ali-Ben Bongo who was chosen by the ruling party Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), to stand in the presidential elections in August.
Some members of the PDG claim that Mr. Ali Bongo was imposed on the party and that he is not a concensus candidate as he would have the media believe. They have, so far, been dismissed from the party.
However the ex-ministers will now run against Mr. Bongo independently. But according to analysts, running as independents “outside the PDG party framework is equal to not running at all”. This is because PDG’s grip on national institutions including the national media as well as the short timeframe for the elections do not favour anyone but the only widely known party of the late President, Omar Bongo. This could imply that Ali Bongo is running virtually unopposed.
Cabinet ministers who belong to other parties and have declared to run against Mr. Bongo have been dismissed from their executive positions, even former Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong has stepped down from his office to run against Mr. Bongo.
While other presidential candidates have been asked to step down from their administrative positions, Mr. Bongo has retained his position as defense minister until the 30 August election.
Late president Omar Bongo ruled Gabon for 42 years, and enriched himself immensely during his years in office while a number of the 1.4 million people in Gabon lived in abject poverty.
He was accused of embezzling oil revenues and bribery while maintaining close economic and political links with former colonial power France. After Omar Bongo’s death in May, observers speculated that his long-term successor would be his son, Ali-Ben, or his daughter, Pascaline, who had served as his chief of staff.
The certainty that Ali-Ben Bongo will succeed his father to become the next president of Gabon, come August, is now very high.