PARIS, 31 March 2021 – The president of Gabon, Ali Bongo, has granted his first interview since suffering a heart attack that partially paralyzed him.
“I am doing well,” Ali Bongo told the Paris-based Jeune Afrique magazine in the interview, bragging that his recovery has come along so well that he is working long hours.
Ali Bongo suffered the heart attack in October 2018 and had not granted an interview since then.
“I am anxious to get back to full form – 100 percent of my capacity,” the Gabonese leader said in the four-page interview.
Bongo dismissed concerns that his health issues hamper his capacity to deliver for his country.
Those who worry about whether I can assume my office or not should bother instead about bringing up the ideas we need to implement to move our country forward, Bongo told Jeune Afrique.
He said those opposed to him staying on in power have specialized on polemics and on criticizing for criticism’s sake.
The Gabonese leader defended his December 2019 decision to appoint his son, Valentin Noureddin Bongo, as the General Coordinator of Presidential Affairs.
President Ali Bongo is unapologetic about his choice, telling journalists that he has full confidence in his son whom he described as “extremely competent”.
“He assists me on a daily basis. He ensures that my directives are followed and are fully executed, following up to ensure that such is, indeed, the case,” Bongo said.
Opposition politicians in Bongo slammed the decision as another step in the enthronement of another Bongo at the helm of a state that the Bongo family appears determined to privatize.
Gabonese, who recall how Ali Bongo’s father, groomed his son at the time in the ministry of defense in preparation for him to assume presidential powers, believe Gabon is back to the future.
The Bongo family continues its 50-year rule of oil-rich Gabon.
Ali Bongo, who was born Alain Bernard Bongo in neighboring Congo-Brazzaville in February 1959, spent some time as a funk singer and was seen by many as a spoilt, playboy prince until he stepped into his father’s shoes following his death in 2009.
Working with the manager of funk legend James Brown’s manager, Charles Bobbit, Ali Bongo released his one album, A Brand New Man, in 1977 in which he chanted “Let me be your darling, your everything, ‘till the end of time”.
Four years earlier, Alain Bernard had converted to Islam taking the name Ali along with his father who became Alhadj Omar Bongo.
Bongo narrowly won the 2016 presidential elections by the narrowest of margins – just 6,000 votes more than Jean Ping, his main challenger, and former African Union Chairperson.
Ping alleged acts of violence and intimidation as well as widespread voter fraud.
In one of Ali Bongo’s main strongholds, Haut-Ogooue province, Bongo won 95 percent of the vote on a turnout of 99.9 percent.