Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba
Date of Birth: 09/02/1959
Place of Birth: Brazzaville, Congo-Brazzaville
Newish President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba aims to end Gabon’s economic dependence on oil along with its traditional ties to France. A 9-12 November trip to Singapore yielded a deal for a fertiliser plant at Port Gentil worth US$1.3 billion with Olam International. This follows offers from the China National Offshore Oil Corporation and Korea National Oil Corporation to advise Libreville on the setting up of Gabon’s new national oil company. In August, the government signed billions of dollars in contracts for an export processing zone, roads, palm oil plantations and social housing with companies from Singapore and India.
Ali Ben Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, was President of Gabon from 1967 until his death in August 2009 and many Gabonese saw the son – with his privileged overseas upbringing, globetrotting and French wife – as an outsider.
Ali Ben won the presidential election against oppositionist Pierre Mamboundou and former ally André Mba Obame – but with just 42% of the vote. The result was met with protests and much anger was directed at French interests.
Ali was born in Congo-Brazzaville in 1959. Raised and educated largely in France, he earned a doctorate in law at the Sorbonne and converted to Islam, along with his father, in 1973. His political career began in 1981, when he joined the Parti Démocratique Gabonais and under his father’s wing quickly won a seat on its central committee. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1989-1991 and Defence Minister from 1999-2009.