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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Gabon Coup Leader, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema Sworn In As President

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Gabon’s new military leader was inaugurated as the head of state on Monday, September 3 less than a week after overthrowing former President Ali Bongo, whose family had governed the Central African nation for over 50 years.

General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema took the oath of office in front of a crowded audience of government officials, military officers, and local leaders at Gabon’s presidential palace in Libreville.

Oligui, cousin of ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, heads the republican guard, an elite military unit, and previously served as a bodyguard to Ali’s late father.

 

 

Oligui stated that the military had taken control peacefully and pledged to restore power to the people by holding free, transparent, and credible elections, earning applause and standing ovations.

“With the new government, made up of experienced people, we’re going to give everyone a chance to hope,” he said.

The mutinous soldiers who toppled Bongo last week said he risked leading the country into chaos.

 

They then “unanimously” designated Oligui as president of the transitional committee.

Bongo, who had been president for 14 years, was ousted hours after being declared the winner of a vote that was widely seen as rife with irregularities and lacking transparency.

The speedy swearing-in of Oligui will create perceptions of legitimacy and consolidate his power to deter potential opponents from challenging his rule, said Maja Bovcon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk-assessment firm.

 

“It is also likely intended as a means to restore investor confidence by conveying the message that he will not waste time in returning to business as usual and democratic rules,” she said.

However, the fact that he plans to rewrite the constitution and electoral code means that the transition period will likely take months if not years.

Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability.

 

 

Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, the group says.

The idea of a long transition isn’t something that appeared to bother Gabonese who attended the inauguration on Thursday.

“We are turning the page of 55 years of an oligarchy.

For Gabon it is a new start, the end of a one-political-party governance without real benefits for the Gabonese people,” said Desire Ename, publisher at a local media outlet.

It would be acceptable for the junta to transition within three years, he said.

Albert Ondo Ossa, the opposition candidate in the recent election, wouldn’t comment on the inauguration but told the Associated Press last week that the government needed to return Gabon to constitutional rule.

 

The former French colony is a member of OPEC but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank.

Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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