Early life and political career
Ali Bongo was born Alain Bernard Bongo in Brazzaville, as the son of Albert-Bernard Bongo (later Omar Bongo Ondimba) and Josephine Kama (later Patience Dabany). His mother was 15 years old at the time of his birth. He was conceived 18 months before Albert-Bernard's marriage and there have been rumors of him being Bongo's adopted son, a claim that he dismisses. After studying law, he entered politics, joining the Gabonese Democratic Party (French: Parti Démocratique Gabonais, abbreviated PDG) in 1981; he was elected to the PDG Central Committee at the party's Third Extraordinary Congress in March 1983. Subsequently, he was his father's Personal Representative to the PDG and in that capacity he entered the PDG Political Bureau in 1984. He was then elected to the Political Bureau at an ordinary party congress in September 1986.
Bongo held the post of High Personal Representative of the President of the Republic from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, his father appointed him to the government as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, replacing Martin Bongo. He was considered a reformist within the ruling PDG in the early 1990s. In the 1990 parliamentary election (the first election after the introduction of multiparty politics), he was elected to the National Assembly as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. After two years as Foreign Minister, a 1991 constitutional amendment setting a minimum age of 35 for ministers resulted in his departure from the government.
Following his departure from the government, Bongo took up his seat as a Deputy in the National Assembly in 1991. In February 1992, he organized a visit by American pop singer Michael Jackson to Gabon.
Bongo became President of the
Higher Council of Islamic Affairs of Gabon (Conseil supérieur des affaires islamiques du Gabon, CSAIG) in 1996. Prior to the December 1996 parliamentary election, a supporter of Defense Minister Idriss Ngari challenged Bongo for the PDG nomination to his parliamentary seat, but Bongo was successful in winning the nomination and retaining the seat. In surviving that challenge, he benefited from the assistance of his maternal uncle Jean-Boniface Assélé, one of his key political allies. After over seven years as a Deputy, Bongo was appointed to the government as Minister of National Defense on 25 January 1999.
In the December 2001 parliamentary election, Bongo was elected to the National Assembly as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. At the PDG's Eighth Ordinary Congress in July 2003, he was elected as a Vice-President of the PDG. During the 2005 presidential election, he worked on his father's re-election campaign as Coordinator-General of Youth. Following that election, he was promoted to the rank of Minister of State on 21 January 2006, while retaining the defense portfolio.
Bongo was re-elected to the National Assembly in the December 2006 parliamentary election as a PDG candidate in Haut-Ogooué Province. He retained his post as Minister of State for National Defense after that election, although he was subsequently reduced to the rank of ordinary Minister on 28 December 2007. At the PDG's Ninth Ordinary Congress in September 2008, he was re-elected as a Vice-President of the PDG.