Accepted paper:

Family Matters: A Case Study of the Bongo Political Dynasty in Gabon since the Return to Multiparty Politics


Leonard Mbulle-Nziege (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

The Bongo family has ruled Gabon since 1968 through El Hadj Omar Bongo and subsequently by his son Ali Bongo Ondimba. Despite a multitude of challenges over the last 30 years, the Bongo's have successfully maintained control of Gabonese affairs and this essay will examine how this has been achieved.

Paper long abstract:

Since its independence from France in 1960, the Bongo family has firmly been in control of the oil-rich central African nation of Gabon. El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba held the country's presidency from 1968 until his death in office in 2009. He was succeeded by his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba in 2009, who is president till date. During this tenure, the Bongo's have placed their family members in strategic decision making positions, to strengthen their control over the state apparatus. However, the Bongo's have experienced a multitude of direct challenges to their executive authority and control of Gabonese affairs over the past decades. These include, the transition to multiparty politics during the early 1990's, the 2009 split in the ruling Parti Democratique Gabonaise (PDG) and the ensuing 2009 presidential elections. In 2016 Ali Bongo, narrowly won the presidential election by just under 6000 votes, which was followed by standoff with the opposition. On 7 January 2019 there was an unsuccessful coup attempt, while Ali Bongo was in Morocco recovering from a stroke. In this regard, I will examine the reasons which might explain the Bongo's ability to maintain their family dynasty, particularly since the return to multiparty politics. These would include but are not limited to; corruption, the use of extensive patronage, international support (particularly from France), ruling party cohesion and opposition weakness, and a manipulated democratic transition. From the research, we will be able to understand how family dynasties operate very differently from conventional political regimes.

panel Pol10
The politics of dynasties in Africa