Ali Bongo, the man ousted as Gabon’s president, is a man of many faces.
To some, he is a spoilt, playboy prince who saw ruling the oil-rich Gabon as his birthright; a one-time funk singer who stepped into his father’s shoes to continue his family’s (now almost 56-year-long) rule.
To others, he is a reformer – a man seeking to diversify the economy and boost Gabon’s international status with an ambitious environmental agenda.
But an apparent military coup has pushed tensions to the surface in this country of just more than two million people.
The soldiers said they were annulling the results of Saturday’s polls – Ali Bongo had been declared the winner but the opposition said the election had been rigged.
The military say they have put Mr Bongo under house arrest.
Ali Bongo was born Alain Bernard Bongo in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville in February 1959.
Even his birth was controversial – rumours, which he has always denied, have persisted for years that he was adopted from the Nigerian south-east at the time of the Biafran war.
The young Alain Bernard was still in primary school when his father Omar Bongo took control of Gabon in 1967. Already, however, the groundwork was being laid for criticisms which would haunt him later in life.
“He wasn’t born in the presidential palace, but almost. He was about eight when his father became president,” François Gaulme, a French historian and author on Gabonese politics, told the BBC.
“The fact that he went to the best schools in Libreville and didn’t learn local languages was something he would get criticised for later on.”
At the age of nine, Ali Bongo was sent to a private school in the upmarket Paris suburb of Neuilly, and later, to the Sorbonne where he studied law. This international upbringing led many in Gabon to view him as an outsider.
Alain Bernard became Ali and his father Omar in 1973, after converting to Islam – the only members of their family to do so.
The decision was widely seen a way to attract investment from Muslim countries. But the elder Bongo, who was previously an animist and not baptized in the Christian faith, also evoked spiritual reasons for his conversion.
Funk music and freemasonry
It was never all about politics for the young Ali Bongo, however. He showed an early passion for football and music – something inherited from his mother, the Gabonese singer Patience Dabany.
A reputation for being a playboy during his youth was cemented with the release of his 1977 album A Brand New Man, produced by Charles Bobbit, the manager of funk legend James Brown.
“Let me be your darling, Your everything, ’til the end of time,” Bongo crooned on the title track.
Within four years of the album release, he had turned his attention to politics.
Ali Bongo served in his father’s government as minister of defence, a role he held for 10 years. Before that his first appointment, as Gabon’s foreign minister in 1989, ended after three years because of a constitutional change requiring ministers to be over the age of 35. He was 32 at the time.
However, it seems he wasn’t immediately seen as a natural successor to his father.
“In the beginning, the Gabonese people didn’t see [Ali Bongo] as a serious candidate,” said Mr Gaulme.
“But in the end, he has been more thoughtful than he seemed. The first time people saw he could be serious was when he restructured the army.”
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