Gabon profile - Leaders

President: Ali Ben Bongo

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Image caption President Ali Bongo Ondimba, pictured with his wife Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, succeeded his father

Ali Ben Bongo was declared the winner of the presidential election on 3 September 2009. He had been widely tipped to succeed his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June after 42 years in power.

At the time of his death, Omar Bongo was Africa's longest-serving head of state, having led Gabon since he succeeded the post-independence leader Leon Mba in 1967.

Omar Bongo portrayed himself as the custodian of Gabon's political stability and was credited with encouraging foreign investment. His critics accused him of having authoritarian tendencies.

Opponents of the late president have long accused the Bongo family of running the country as their private property. Omar Bongo amassed a vast fortune during his time in office, and was accused of embezzling oil revenues and bribery.

Along with Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema and Congo-Brazzaville's Denis Sassou Nguesso, the late president was the subject of a long-running fraud probe by French police into the source of money spent on assets in France.

Opposition leaders denounced his son's election as a fraud, saying that the poll had been fixed in order to ensure a dynastic succession.

Though the election result was confirmed by Gabon's Constitutional Court, opposition leaders continued to dispute it, describing Ali Bongo's victory as "a constitutional coup d'etat".

In 2011, the main opposition candidate in the 2009 vote, Andre Mba Obame, said he was the rightful winner and legitimate president. In response, Mr Bongo banned Mr Obame's opposition National Union, upon which Mr Obame took refuge in the UN compound in Libreville.

Born in 1959 in Brazzaville, Ali Ben Bongo was educated in France from the age of nine and graduated from the Sorbonne with a PhD in law.

He entered politics in 1981 and became foreign affairs minister in 1989, but was forced to stand down in 1991 because he was too young. He later served as defence minister from 1999 to 2009.

Both he and his father converted to Islam in 1973, when Ali Ben changed his name from Alain Bernard Bongo.

He is said to be a gifted musician - inheriting his talent from his mother, the Gabonese singer Patience Dabany - and is also a passionate football fan, something he shares with many of his countrymen.

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