1968 - 1990: First and foremost, the economy
Albert Bernard Bongo, who changed his name to Omar Bongo in 1973 when he converted to Islam, devoted the greater part of his first ten years in power to the economy and to national unity. Finding the country deeply divided, he decided to create a single party which he named the Democratic Party of Gabon.
Very quickly, the young head of State made it the crucible of national unity and the vector of the country's development. The President reorganized the country, administratively and politically. Aided by the two oil booms that Gabon experienced in 1973 then in 1979, Omar Bongo Ondimba transformed the country. He endowed it with the necessary infrastructure to accompany its development. From then on, Gabon was able to reorganize its economy. Several major mining and forestry companies were formed (COMILOG, COMUF and SNBG, etc.). Libreville was transformed, with the building of modern infrastructure, mostly in 1977 for the summit meeting of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), which the country hosted. Two major harbour complexes were built, one in Owendo and the other at Port-Gentil. Each province was endowed with an airport, two of international stature, at Libreville and Franceville. He launched the third largest public works project in the world at the time, the backbone of Gabon's development: the Transgabon railway.
1990: Introduction of a multiparty system
For Omar Bongo Ondimba, attentive to his people, opening up to democracy appeared inevitable when the first contestations from Gabonese political groups settled abroad reached him. With skill and foresight, he sent emissaries to France as early as 1986, to meet with the opposition and discuss ways to bring back the multiparty system in Gabon. In 1990, convinced that the population was mature for it, Omar Bongo Ondimba added flexibility to his political system. After six days of exchanges, during the National Conference in March-April 1990, he opened up the elections to all the political players, irrespective of their political opinion, with a transition Constitution adopted by the National Assembly and the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Gabon (PDG).
The years 2000: new directions for the Gabonese economy
At the beginning of the 21st century, Omar Bongo Ondimba committed to a plan to streamline public finances. He focussed on reducing the indebtedness of his country and from 2001 introduced a major programme to industrialize the manganese sector, with the construction of the Moanda Industrial Complex.
Manganese is enriched to produce a special high-grade ore much stronger than the raw mineral. He set up a vast programme to privatize public companies on the advice of the World Bank and the IMF. He reoriented the State towards its sovereign missions: build schools, hospitals and roads and ensure the defence and security of the land and its citizens.
He reintroduced national fêtes in the provincial capitals, with massive investment programmes for these localities designed to evenly balance the level of development throughout the country. Each provincial capital was thus provided with a modern hospital. The territorial administrations found themselves engaged in a programme to modernize their reception structures (the building of governorates, Town halls, etc.). On 8 June 2009, when he was about to undertake new reforms, Omar Bongo Ondimba passed away in Barcelona, Spain.
A successful transition
After the death of the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba, the Gabonese people, unanimously united in pain and bereavement, looked to the fundamental terms of the law: the Constitution.
In a very responsible way, they submitted to its recommendations, which stipulated that in the event of a power vacancy, the President of the Senate would take over in the interim and prepare for the presidential election within 45 days following the observation of vacancy.
On 10 June 2009, the President of the Constitutional Court had the President of the Senate sworn in, in front of the elected representatives of the Nation and the elected bodies. The institutional process was triggered and the constitutional countdown started. The President of the Senate, acting interim President of the Republic, Mrs Rose Francine Rogombe, a magistrate by profession, set to work to organize a regular and transparent presidential election, and at the same time organize the funeral of her illustrious predecessor.
On 16 October 2009, Ali Bongo Ondimba came to power, elected by 41.73% of voters after an open electoral campaign. Very quickly, the new chief of State astonished his fellow citizens.
He was determined to achieve change within stability. He took courageous decisions, such as the ban on lumber exports from 2010, to encourage the domestic working of this raw material. He launched audits of the administration, introduced the non-stop working day, created the National Agency for Major Works, the National Oil Company and the Sovereign Fund of Gabon.
In less than 3 months, the Gabonese people were surprised to see such a determination to change; they therefore nicknamed their new President "Tsunali".