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12 Things You Didn’t Know About President Ali Bongo Of Gabon

12 Things You Didn’t Know About President Ali Bongo Of Gabon

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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.

Sources: SAHARA REPORTERS, BBC, THE IRISH TIMESThe Daily MailAFRICAN HIPHOPForeign Policy, Africa NewsRevolvy

President Ali Bongo o Gabon (Image: mikiguru.com)
President Ali Bongo o Gabon (Image: mikiguru.com)

Controversy over his nationality

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.

Protest errupts in Gabon as presidential candidate Jean Ping loses to incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba. (Image: thestar.com)
Protest errupts in Gabon as presidential candidate Jean Ping loses to incumbent Ali Bongo Ondimba. (Image: thestar.com)

Violence has marred his win twice

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.

Image: saharanvibe.blogspot.com
Image: saharanvibe.blogspot.com

He plays football with his security every Sunday

He sets aside time to play football with his security guards, on most Sundays.

Pelé flanked by Samuel Eto'o and Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba (Image: bigapplesoccer.com)
Pelé flanked by Samuel Eto’o and Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba (Image: bigapplesoccer.com)

His favorite football club is Real Madrid

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.

Gabon President  Ali Bongo Ondimba smiles during a Press Conference  Mohamed Hammi/Sipa Press/HAMMI_141616/Credit:HAMMI/SIPA/1409061422
Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba smiles during a Press Conference Mohamed Hammi/Sipa Press/HAMMI_141616/Credit:HAMMI/SIPA/1409061422

He was a budding jazz musician before joining politics

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.

Image: africa.tvcnews.tv
Image: africa.tvcnews.tv

His mother was a dancer and singer

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.

Image: fronteranews.com
Image: fronteranews.com

His lavish lifestyle caused national uproar

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.

Image: kongossanews.com
Image: kongossanews.com

He’s married to an extravagant former American model

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.

Image: africatopsuccess.com
Image: africatopsuccess.com

He converted to Islam

Alain Bernard Bongo converted to Islam alongside his father in 1973. He adopted the name Ali Bongo.

Image: bbc.co.uk
Image: bbc.co.uk

Blind date, missed flight and divorce

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.

Image: africatopsuccess.com
Image: africatopsuccess.com

First African president hosted at the private residence of a U.S. President

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.

Image: indigenouspeople.org.uk
Image: indigenouspeople.org.uk

He has a poor command of local Gabonese dialects

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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