Gabon: New Leader Promises Reforms After Ali Bongo Ouster


By Adedapo Adesanya

The leader of the coup that ousted Gabon’s President, Mr Ali Bongo, Mr Brice Oligui Nguema, has promised to bring reforms as he was sworn in as interim president of the central African country on Monday.

In Africa’s ninth coup in three years, army officers led by Mr Nguema (a general) seized power on August 30, minutes after an announcement that Mr Bongo had won his third term election in his 14 years as president.

According to reports, Mr Nguema, a cousin of the deposed Garbonese leader, was given a standing ovation by military officers and officials as he arrived for the ceremony and again just after a panel of constitutional court judges swore him in.

Social media photographs seen by this publication showed images of a cheering crowd and armoured personnel carriers firing into the sea to mark the moment.

In a speech, the new Gabon leader proposed reforms, including a new constitution to be adopted by referendum, new electoral and penal codes, and measures to prioritise local banks and companies for economic development.

He also said political exiles would be welcomed back and political prisoners freed.

Repeatedly interrupted by cheers, he described the coup, which ended the Bongo family’s 56-year hold on power in the oil-producing country, as a moment of national liberation and a manifestation of God’s will.

“When the people are crushed by their leaders … it’s the army that gives them back their dignity,” he said. “People of Gabon, today the times of happiness that our ancestors dreamt of are finally coming.”

Several figures from Bongo’s government, including the vice president and prime minister, attended the ceremony.

Mr Bongo himself remains under house arrest. He was elected in 2009, taking over from his late father, who came to power in 1967.

However, criticisms from several quarters said that the family did too little to share Gabon’s oil and mining wealth with the country’s 2.3 million people.

Mr Nguema reiterated that his administration would organise free and fair elections, though he gave no timetable.

“After this transition … we intend to return power to civilians by organising new elections that will be free, transparent, credible and peaceful,” he said.

Previously, Mr Nguema had said the junta would proceed “quickly but surely” but cautioned that too much haste could lead to elections that lack credibility.

Leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are due to meet in person on Monday to discuss their response. Last week, they urged partners led by the United Nations and the African Union to support a rapid return to constitutional order.

Gabon’s main opposition group, Alternance 2023, which says it is the rightful winner of the August 26 election, has called on the international community to encourage the junta to hand power back to civilians.

According to Reuters, members of Alternance 2023 met Nguema on Sunday for talks, but no further details were shared.

ali bongo

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