Monday, January 23, 2006

Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon: The Most Durable African Head of State

"Our ambition is to give this ceremony a certain cachet and to make a grandiose occasion of it. We have never organized an investiture like it in our country"
The above is a statement made by a Gabonese in reference to the swearing-in ceremony of Omar Bongo Ondimba, the “Africa most durable ‘leader’”. A leader indeed!

This most durable African leader has the African (probably world) record of being the longest serving head of state. And he’s just got a fresh lease of another 7 years to do what he has been doing for the past 38 years- rule the oil-rich west African state of Gabon. Yes, Bongo has been in the corridors of power in this one-million-plus strong nation since December 2, 1967!

While Gabon enjoys a per capita income four times that of most of sub-Saharan African nations, but because of high income inequality a large proportion of the population remains poor.

Bongo states in his inaugural speech: “The expectations of my compatriots, notably employment, roads, health, education, housing, are great. The hope expressed in their vote is immense. The seven-year term that begins is thus of critical importance…”

I can’t help but wonder what Bongo has been doing for the past four decades as the pressident? Just as Brian asked in his post at the Black star Journal. The Yebo Gogo blog calls the re-election the continuation of “Big Man’s era”.

Although Bongo won the elections by a scoring an out-right majority of the 79% of the ballot, it is on record that hundreds of Gabonese questioned the validity of the result and did protest the outcome.

In fairness to Bongo; however, Gabon is one of the more stable countries in Africa despite being a multiethnic nation. Could he be doing something right afterall?

Even if it appears that Bongo has the “secret formula” to run this francophone nation on an even keel, he has had more that 30 years to perfect his formula. And at age 70, perhaps it would have been wiser for him to pass on the secret formula to younger blood of higher valor.

Nah! This type of thinking is simply unconceivable and abnormal in this part of the world; it is heresy of the highest order!


South African President Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Morocco's King Mohammed VI are among those expected at the 70-year-old president's investiture in the capital Libreville- News