Revisited: The Death of Bongo

(Note: All names in this item are real. The quotes, obviously, are not.)

Leaders with funny-sounding names from around the globe mourned the death yesterday of Gabon President Omar Bongo, who died of cardiac arrest in a Barcelona hospital. He was 73.

Bongo became the world’s longest-serving leader when Cuba’s Fidel Castro stepped down last year. Bongo had been in office since 1967, when he succeeded the former French colony’s only other leader since Gabon’s independence, Leon M’Ba. Most of the West African nation’s 1.5 million people have known only Bongo as president.

“The drumming of his heartbeat has ceased,” said Prime Minister Jean Ndong in announcing Bongo’s death. “No longer will his people feel the staccato percussion of his stirring words.”

Leading the chorus of tributes that poured in following announcement of the death were fellow sub-Saharan strongmen Tertius Zongo of Burkina Faso, Yayi Boni of Benin, and Ignacio Milam Tang of Equatorial Guinea. Also issuing statements of mourning were other African leaders such as Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, and Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghaf of Mauritania.

“His weapons were his crystal eyes, making every man a man,” said Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama, secretary-general of the Wacky Named Leaders (WNL) confederation. “Black as the dark night he was, got what no one else had.”

The large representation of south Pacific nations in the group were quick to join in the Fijian’s tribute. East Timor’s Xanana Gusmao, Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyoho, Palau’s Johnson Toribiong, and Vanuatu’s Kalkot Mataskelekele added their condolences, as did Malaysia’s Yang di-Pertuan Agong Mizan Zainal Abidin, the world’s longest-named president. But it was the succinct homage released by Samoa’s O le Ao o le Malo Tufuga Efi that touched a special note.

“He is as if my pa,” Efi said. “O, we no do go on, my my.”

Bongo’s loss was also noted throughout mainland Asia. Igor Chudinov of Kyrgyzstan, Lee Myung-bak of South Korea, Oqil Oqilov of Tajikistan and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan sent messages of support – largely misspelled – to the people of Gabon. Bhutan’s king Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, saying that all the world mourned with him, proclaimed “everyone Wangchuck tonight.” Oman’s Sultan Qaboos said he was so hurt by the announcement that “I felt like I was run over by a train.” Kuwait’s Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah told reporters he was “all sad, all gloomy,” but that he would eventually be “alright.”

European dignitaries were not as forthcoming in their praise, in part because Bongo had been widely criticized for failing to promote democracy, and because the Anglo-French-German heritage of many heads of state make their names less amusing to Western ears. But Albania’s Bamir Topi, Hungary’s Laszlo Solyom and Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker said they would be sending ambassadors to Bongo’s funeral, scheduled for Friday.

“We may not have agreed with all his policies, but he was a man who respected his people,” said Queen Elizabeth II (pronounced “eye-eye”) of England. “It is sad to say bye-bye.”

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2 Responses to “Revisited: The Death of Bongo”

  1. planetross Says:

    pointing fingers at people’s names is like … finger pointing at names.
    Bush and Obama are pretty funny too!
    No Prime Minister has ever had a funny name … they were just French ones.

  2. planetross Says:

    Canadian Prime Ministers … there have been a lot of funny other Prime Minister’s names in other countries though: especially Boner Law in England … but he was born in Canada, so I’m not sure how I stand on that one.
    I guess I don’t stand on Boners usually, so that’s okay.

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