Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president.

In a swift turn of events, Gabon Coup leader Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema was officially sworn in as the new president of the Central African nation on Monday.

This comes less than a week after he and a group of mutinous soldiers took control and ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family had been in power for over fifty years. The oath ceremony took place in the presidential palace in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, and was attended by government officials, military personnel, and local leaders.

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
Gabon coup leader General Brice Oligui Nguema is sworn in as interim president during his swearing-in ceremony, in Libreville, Sept. 4, 2023. (Reuters/Gerauds Wilfried Obangome)

Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema, a cousin of the ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, has a history of close ties to the Bongo family. He previously served as a bodyguard to Ali Bongo’s late father and currently heads the republican guard, an elite military unit. With his wealth of experience and strong military background, Oligui Nguema is well-positioned to lead the country during this transitional period.

During the ceremony, Oligui Nguema expressed his commitment to restoring power to the people of Gabon. He assured the public that the military takeover was carried out without any bloodshed and pledged to organize free, transparent, and credible elections in order to give everyone a chance to hope for a better future.

“With the new government, made up of experienced people, we’re going to give everyone a chance to hope,” Oligui Nguema declared to resounding applause and standing ovations. These words reflect his determination to bring stability and progress to Gabon after years of political turmoil.

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
A military parade was held at the inauguration ceremony

The soldiers who orchestrated the coup against President Ali Bongo cited his potential to lead the country into chaos as their main motivation. They further justified this action by pointing out the irregularities and lack of transparency in the recent election, which saw Bongo declared the winner. Many in Gabon and the international community had raised concerns about the fairness of the electoral process.

Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema was unanimously designated as the president of the transitional committee by the mutinous soldiers. This move suggests a military that is united and determined to pave the way for a new era in Gabon’s history. The ousting of President Ali Bongo, who had been in power for 14 years, has undoubtedly caused a significant shift in the country’s political landscape.

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president.

As Gabon enters this transitional period, all eyes are on Gen. Brice Oligui Nguema and his government. The expectations are high, and the challenges ahead are numerous. However, with his military background and close ties to the Bongo family, Oligui Nguema appears to be well-equipped to navigate these turbulent times.

According to Maja Bovcon, a senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, the swift swearing-in of Oligui will not only establish his legitimacy but also consolidate his power, discouraging potential opponents from challenging his rule. This move is likely aimed at restoring investor confidence by signalling a return to business-as-usual and democratic processes. However, the fact that Oligui intends to rewrite the constitution and electoral code suggests that the transition period could last for months or even years.

Bongo had been in power since 2009 following the death of his father, who had ruled Gabon for 41 years. His family’s reign was met with widespread discontent, leading to an attempted coup by mutinous soldiers in 2019 which was quickly suppressed.

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
Gabonese soldiers gather ahead of a possible address by General Brice Oligui Nguema in Libreville on September 2, 2023. AFP—Getty Images

In France, nine members of the Bongo family are currently facing investigation and preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering, and other forms of corruption. Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability, has linked the family to over $92 million worth of properties in France including two villas in Nice.

Interestingly, despite the expected long transition period ahead, attendees of Thursday’s inauguration in Gabon seemed unfazed by this prospect.

“It is a momentous occasion for Gabon as we usher in a new era after 55 years of oligarchy,” stated Desire Ename, publisher for a local media outlet. The previous political party’s rule did not bring any significant benefits to the Gabonese people, and this transition marks a fresh start. Ename suggested that a three-year junta transition would be acceptable.

Gabon Coup leader Brice Oligui Nguema sworn in as new president
Gen Oligui speaks at the ceremony in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, on Monday. He described last week’s elections as ‘obviously loaded’. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Albert Ondo Ossa, the opposition candidate in Gabon, chose not to comment on the inauguration but expressed his belief earlier that the government should return to constitutional rule. He viewed the president’s removal as more of a “palace revolution” rather than a coup, aiming to maintain the Bongo family’s reign.

As an OPEC member and former French colony, Gabon possesses substantial oil wealth; however, it remains largely concentrated among a few individuals. According to the World Bank, nearly 40% of Gabonese youths aged 15 to 24 were unemployed in 2020. In 2022, its oil export revenue reached $6 billion according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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