Gabon appoints first woman Prime Minister amid government shakeup

A woman has been the first time ever promoted to be Prime Minister of Gabon, a country on the west coast of Central Africa. 
July 17, 2020 | 06:51
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Gabon President Ali Bongo promoted Ms. Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda to prime minister. Photo: Financial Afrik

Gabon president Ali Bongo Ondimba on Thursday named a new Prime Minister in the person of Madame Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda. She becomes the first female Prime Minister in the country.

She will replace Julien Nkoghe Bekale, who had been in the position since January 2019. Her appointment was announced by the presidential spokesperson.

Ossouka Raponda, 56, is the sixth prime minister appointed since Bongo succeeded his father in 2009. Her first job is to form a new government after her predecessor, Julien Nkoghe Bekale, stepped down earlier in the day.

She will take on two major challenges: declining oil production and prices, which have weighed on growth in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Central African country has registered nearly 6,000 cases to date.

gabon appoints first woman prime minister amid government shakeup
Ossouka Raponda, new Prime Minister of Gabon. Photo: Internet

Ossouka Raponda will also have to navigate a delicate political scene that was shaken up when Bongo, 61, had a stroke in 2018, followed by a long medical leave abroad, during which there was a brief coup attempt.

ongo's recovery has been slow and rare television appearances show him still struggling to walk.

Ossouka Raponda was named budget minister eight years ago before being elected mayor of the capital Libreville in 2014, becoming the first woman to hold that position since 1956. She has served as defence minister since February 2019.

The role of prime minister has so far being occupied by 11 men since the first occupant in the person of Leon M’ba. The prime minister post was abolished between 1961 and 1975.

The longest-serving prime minister was Leon Mebiame who lasted 15 years in the role under the presidency of Omar Bongo, father of the current president.

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View overlooking Gabon’s capital, Libreville. Photo: World Bank

Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, has one of the region's more stable countries.

Since independence from France in 1960, Gabon has had just three presidents. The late President Omar Bongo ruled for more than four decades until his death in 2009.

During Omar Bongo's rule, Gabon maintained a close relationship with France under a system known as "Francafrique", receiving both political and military support in exchange for business favours.

But relations have cooled since his son Ali won a contested election in 2009 and the French authorities launched a long-running corruption investigation into the family's assets.

Gabon is a major oil producer but a third of its population live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

(Source: BBC)

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A scene of Gabon. Photo: AFDB
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