El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba (born Albert-Bernard Bongo; 30 December 1935 – 8 June 2009) was a Gabonese politician who was the second President of Gabon for 42 years, from 1967 until his death in 2009. Omar Bongo was promoted to key positions as a young official under Gabon's first President Léon M'ba in the 1960s, before being elected Vice-President in his own right in 1966. In 1967, he succeeded M'ba to become the second Gabon President, upon the latter's death. Bongo headed the single-party regime of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) until 1990, when, faced with public pressure, he was forced to introduce multi-party politics into Gabon. His political survival despite intense opposition to his rule in the early 1990s seemed to stem once again from consolidating power by bringing most of the major opposition leaders at the time to his side. The 1993 presidential election was extremely controversial but ended with his re-election then and the subsequent elections of 1998 and 2005. His respective parliamentary majorities increased and the opposition becoming more subdued with each succeeding election. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February 2008, Bongo became the world's longest-ruling non-royal leader. He was one of the longest serving non-royal rulers since 1900. Bongo was criticized for in effect having worked for himself, his family and local elites and not for Gabon and its people. For instance, French green politician Eva Joly claimed that during Bongo's long reign, despite an oil-led GDP per capita growth to one of the highest levels in Africa, Gabon built only 5 km of freeway a year and still had one of the world's highest infant mortality rates by the time of his death in 2009.After Bongo's death in June 2009, his son Ali Bongo—who had long been assigned key ministerial responsibilities by his father—was elected to succeed him in August 2009.
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