After inheriting power in 2009, President Ali Bongo ran the country much the way his father had done: Maintain clientelistic patronage systems and buttress his regime, which maintained the formal appearance of electoral democracy behind the thin veneer of a single-party rule.

As a result of the pandemic-induced reduction in demand and ensuing economic crisis, oil prices fell to around $40 per barrel, which cut deep into Gabon’s public finances, with government revenue heavily dependent on oil, manganese and timber exports.

Since Ali Bongo ruled in a neo-patrimonial style, as a personal ruler who controlled all important decisions, his stroke in late 2018 made the machinery of government ineffective and led to a failed coup attempt in January 2019. Members of his family soon took power into their own hands, sidelining influential super-ministers and chiefs of staff.

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