Mayor of Libreville and Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) candidate for the local elections, Rose christiane Ossouka Raponda, casts her vote at a polling station in Libreville, on October 6, 2018. (Photo by Joel TATOU / AFP)

By Dumisani Sigogo

Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, has become the newest prime minister in Africa and it is for the first time in the history of Gabon that a woman has been appointed to the position.

The president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, in accordance with a presidential decree, on 16 July promoted the 56-year-old Raponda from the defense ministry to take over from Julien Nkoghe Bekale, who was the premier since January 2019.

The oil-rich central African state has had its income drastically decreased because of the slump in oil prices as a result of the coronavirus crisis and top of Raponda’s mission will be ensuring Gabon’s economic relaunch.

The secretary-general of the presidency, Jean-Yves Teal, in a statement, said “The priority mission of the new prime minister will be, above all, the economic revival and the continuation of the social support of the Gabonese people in a world context marked by the consequences of the crisis linked to Covid-19.”

Raponda, an economist by training who graduated from the Gabonese Institute of Economy and Finance, has served the country in various roles such as director-general of the economy, deputy director-general of the nation’s Housing Bank and in 2012, she became the budget minister.

In 2014, she became the first female mayor of the capital Libreville representing Bongo’s Gabonese Democratic Party PDG, the first woman to hold that position since 1956.

Bongo was elected in 2009 after the death of his father Omar who led the country for 42 years and his fitness to run the country has been questioned by his critics since he suffered a stroke in October 2018.

He spent months abroad for treatment, and during that time in January 2019 there was an attempted coup that lasted a few hours and was followed by a reshuffle that saw Bekale and Raponda being installed as prime minister and defence minister respectively.

The 61year old, Bongo who is yet to fully recover has not made public appearances for several months and his fitness to govern continues to be questioned by opposition and civic leaders. He was only last week photographed at a meeting with top commanders of the armed, police and security forces.

Raponda is the sixth prime minister appointed under President Bongo and her new appointment comes at a time when Gabon has suspended issuing visas to European Union travelers after its citizens were included in the EU ban list.

Gabon has about 6000 COVID-19 cases said it had applied the “the principle of reciprocity”