Omar Bongo Dies

Omar Bongo Ondimba (30 December 1935 – 8 June 2009), born Albert-Bernard Bongo, was a Gabonese politician who was President of Gabon from 1967 to 2009.

Bongo, a man of short stature at 4 feet 11 inches (1.5 m), was promoted to key positions as a young official under President Leon M'ba in the 1960s, served as Vice-President from 1966 to 1967, then succeeded M'ba as President of Gabon upon the latter's death in 1967.

"Bongo from Congo" (Norwegian: Bongo fra Kongo) is the name which then Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thorbjørn Jagland, applied to Gabon's president Omar Bongo when Bongo visited Norway in 2001. Jagland stated on 2 February 2001 in the nationally broadcast television show I kveld med Per Ståle on TV 2 that "everybody at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs went around saying that 'now you are going to meet with Bongo from Congo'".

Due to Norway's predominantly monocultural past, up until about the 1970s, the commingling of the two words Bongo and Congo would tend to conjure mental imagery of African savagery, especially in the elder part of the Norwegian population, similar to the English as well as Norwegian use of the word Sambo. Thus, Jagland's reference was perceived as racially insensitive for pandering to such traditional ignorance and bigotry. Consequently the reference by a former prime minister of a foreign dignitary sparked immediate scorn as well as ridicule (of Jagland, not Bongo), especially since this was not the first time Thorbjørn Jagland had made spontaneous comments on various issues which by critics were asserted as sign of poor judgement.