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Why the Bongos will not be forgotten in Uganda

Short in stature, he famously preferred his shoes to have some extra inches on the heel

Short in stature, he famously preferred his shoes to have some extra inches on the heel

A recent coup d’etat – the latest in Francophone West Africa’s version of the Arab Spring – Gabon’s strongman General Brice Oligui Nguema brought a close to the 56-year- old dynastic rule of the Bongos.

Well, almost, considering that Nguema is also family, being a cousin to deposed president Ali Bongo Ondimba. Before Ondimba’s 14 years in power, the later years of which were spent struggling with obvious signs of a stroke, his father Omar Bongo had ruled Gabon for 42 years.

Ondimba had just won another contested election when the military said enough is enough. The Bongos have always been known for their flamboyancy and for all their faults in the eyes of their people that jubilated at their downfall; they will be fondly remembered in Uganda.

Especially now, when we seem to have run out of fashion ideas and are regurgitating styles from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Platform shoes are surely making a fashion comeback, but did you know that Omar Bongo and his wife introduced the style to Ugandans?

Back in 1975, Bongo came to Uganda for the OAU summit, and his fashion style stood out so much that Ugandans soon copied it, even baptizing the platform shoes he loved – to add some inches to his famously short stature – ‘Bongo’ or ‘Bongo flavour’, because of him.

After that, young Ugandans worth their salt patronized Suzanna nightclub, White Nile and other trendy places rocking the in-fashion bell-bottom trousers and Bongo shoes for several years.

Before the then Ugandan president Idi Amin banned miniskirts and short dresses, it was haute couture for a woman to rock the shortest of dresses with Bongo shoes to complete the look. So, not all about the Bongos was bad. In Uganda, they were influencers, so to speak.

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