In an unmistakable bid to prolong his family’s stranglehold on power in Gabon — a dominance spanning over half a century — President Ali Bongo declared his intent to run for office once again on Sunday. This announcement, reported by Reuters, is an affirmation of the incumbent’s pursuit of continuity in a politically volatile landscape.
“Because nothing matters more than your success, I am announcing today that I am a candidate,” declared Bongo, addressing a modest assembly of his steadfast supporters. At 64 years of age, Bongo’s decision signifies his resolve to steer the course of the oil-rich Gabonese nation for another seven-year term.
Ali Bongo’s ascendancy to power was marked by the end of his father Omar Bongo’s reign, which began in 1967 and ended with his death in 2009. The Bongo family’s legacy of leadership is notable for its longevity, facilitated by the absence of statutory term limits in Gabon. President Ali Bongo having already served two seven-year terms as president, is poised to leverage this legal loophole in his quest to maintain power.
However, his political journey has not been without challenges. Allegations of fraud surrounded Bongo’s victories in both elections, and they were fervently contested by the opposition. The 2016 elections, in particular, precipitated a surge of public unrest. Fatal clashes erupted between the police and demonstrators, culminating in the parliament building’s complete destruction by fire — an event that echoed the severity of the political divisions within the country.
In 2018, President Bongo’s future seemed uncertain as he faced a significant personal and political challenge. Having suffered a stroke in October of that year, he journeyed to Morocco for medical treatment, leaving his position and the stability of his regime in a precarious state. His three-month absence from Gabon amplified the unease in the country, reaching a crescendo when an attempted coup was thwarted while he was still away.
The shock of the coup attempt jolted the Bongo regime, triggering calls for immediate measures to stabilize the government. The voices of opposition were not solely from predictable quarters. Apart from the opposition and certain factions within the military, there was a rising clamor for action from within Bongo’s ruling party itself.
As President Ali Bongo seeks to regain his political foothold, his medical journey continues to be a subject of public interest. In addition to his treatment in Morocco, he also sought medical attention in Saudi Arabia in 2018. Despite these health setbacks, President Ali Bongo’s recent announcement signals his unwavering determination to continue his family’s long-standing dominance over Gabon’s political landscape. His forthcoming campaign will undoubtedly be a critical juncture in Gabon’s political narrative.