Ali Bongo was re-elected as the president of Gabon on Saturday, 27 August 2016. The results were disputed by Jean Ping, his closest rival who had declared himself the winner before the result announcement.
Post election violence has since erupted in the West-African nation of about 1.5 million people as opposition supporters clash with security forces.
Below are 12 things to know about Ali Bongo.
There have been allegations that Ali Bongo is not a Gabon national by birth, but from the Igbo tribe who was adopted from Nigeria during the Biafran war in the 1960s. The claims have been strengthened by the fact that Ali is the only declared heir to the late Omar Bongo, whose birth documents have not been publicly scrutinized to ascertain or invalidate the claims.
The president has twice seen his election marred by violence as opposition supporters reject results. In 2009, after his disputed election to succeed his late father, violence rocked the nation. Several people were killed and the French Consulate in Port-Gentil (the nation’s economic capital) set ablaze. After his re-election, the National Assembly building was set ablaze on as opposition supporters protested the results, alleging they were doctored to favor him.
He sets aside time to play football with his security guards, on most Sundays.
Ali Bongo is a passionate supporter of Real Madrid, the Spanish football giants who are one of the most successful clubs in the modern game.
Ali Bongo was a party-goer and a budding musician before he joined his father’s cabinet in 1989. He still plays drums and the piano and has even composed some Jazz songs. He also did the soundtrack for a Gabonese film. In 1977, he made a nationwide tour with a 30-piece American orchestra in a tour dubbed ‘Alain Bongo and his America orchestra’. He also did a live hip-hop performance at the Gabao Hip Hop festival.
Ali Bongo comes from a family with a deep musical background. His mother, Patience Kama Dabanny was a dancer and singer. She successfully pursued a career in music after her divorce with the late Omar Bongo, in 1986. Her albums included Nouvelle Attitude, Associe and Levekisha.
Ali’s lavish lifestyle caused uproar in Gabon in May 2010. He bought a maisonette worth $85 million in Paris, the French capital. The 14-room house was a huge contrast to the nation, whose majority are poor, with an average income of $12 a day. It had a Jacuzzi, heated swimming pool, a tennis court and seven parking spaces.
One of his wives, Inge Bongo, a former American model rented a place from American hip-hop rapper P. Diddy that cost $25,000 per month. In 2007, she bought a home worth $25 million in Beverly Hills, US. The two incidents raised controversy because public funds were used to finance her lavish spending.
Alain Bernard Bongo converted to Islam alongside his father in 1973. He adopted the name Ali Bongo.
He met his second wife, Inge Bongo on a blind date in California, US. He missed a flight to spend time with her on the Sunday morning that they met, in 1986. They separated and he married Sylvia Najma Valentin in 1989.
In 2014, he became the first African head of state to be hosted at Blair House, the private residence of American president, Barack Obama, during the annual Nuclear Security summit.
The president has difficulties in speaking the local languages of the Gabonese people. His critics and political rivals used this to describe him as a spoilt child, out of touch with the abject poverty afflicting majority of the nation’s 1.5 million people.
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