A Presidential Health Scare in Gabon Sparks Talk of Life After Bongo

A Presidential Health Scare in Gabon Sparks Talk of Life After Bongo
Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo, during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 14, 2018 (Photo by Sergey Mamontov for Sputnik via AP Images).

The Central African nation of Gabon has limited experience with presidential transfers of power. In the nearly 60 years since it attained independence, only three men have ever held the top job.

The first president, Leon Mba, died in office in 1967. His successor, Omar Bongo, proved himself to be an archetypal African “strongman,” holding the post for more than four decades and becoming the continent’s longest-serving leader before he, too, died in office in 2009.

The current president is Omar Bongo’s son, Ali Bongo, who was sworn in several months after his father died following an election that sparked rioting and allegations of fraud. Though the younger Bongo, hounded by legitimacy issues throughout his political life, has had a more tenuous hold on power than his father, he managed to survive a second deeply flawed election in 2016, and his current term is due to last until 2023.

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