Biyoghé Mba, Paul (Gabon)
Paul Biyoghé Mba is a career civil servant who served as a minister under Gabon’s autocratic president, Omar Bongo. In Oct. 2009 he was appointed prime minister by the late president’s controversial successor, Ali Bongo.
Biyoghé Mba was born on 18 April 1953 in Donguila, Estuaire province, in western Gabon. In the early 1970s he studied business administration at the University of Rennes, France, before returning to Gabon to work at the Banque Gabonaise de Développement. Biyoghé Mba served as the bank’s deputy director from 1977–80, before joining the civil service, initially as an adviser to Omar Bongo on commercial, industrial and investment affairs (1980–83). This was when high international oil prices brought prosperity to Gabon and to the president personally.
Biyoghé Mba was deputy director to the presidential cabinet from 1984–89, when he helped secure US investment in a period of economic downturn. Disillusionment with Bongo’s repressive policies brought demands for multi-party democracy. In 1990 Gabon held its first multi-party legislative elections for 22 years. Biyoghé Mba was elected for the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), which gained a majority in the National Assembly. He served as a deputy for 2 years until he was appointed minister of state control, parastatal reform and privatization.
Biyoghé Mba supported Bongo’s re-election as president in 1993 but resigned from the government and the PDG the following year in protest at Bongo’s authoritarian response to riots in Libreville and Port-Gentil. Returning to the National Assembly, he created a new party, the Communal Movement for Development (MCD), which eventually merged with the PDG in 2002. Elected to the newly established Senate in 1997, he was the minister responsible for small and medium-sized enterprises from 1999–2003. As Gabon’s minister of trade and industrial development (2003–08) he was responsible for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (a programme of the African Union adopted in 2001). In Oct. 2008 he became minister for agriculture in Jean Eyeghe Ndong’s government.
In the political upheaval that followed Bongo’s death on 8 June 2009 (ending his 41-year rule), his son, Ali Bongo (then minister of defence) became the PDG’s presidential candidate. Ndong resigned as prime minister to fight the election as an independent.
On 17 July 2009 the interim president, Rose Francine Rogombé, named Biyoghé Mba as interim prime minister. Ali-Ben Bongo Ondimba was sworn in as the new president on 16 Oct. 2009, nearly 2 months after his disputed election victory had triggered widespread civil unrest. On the same day, Bongo appointed Biyoghé Mba as prime minister, praising his managerial skills and experience. Biyoghé Mba named a government of 30 ministers (slimmed down from 44), which included 12 members from his previous cabinet. Following the victory of his party in the Dec. elections, Biyoghé Mba resigned on 13 Feb. 2012 as required by the constitution.