Gabon’s Interim Leader Brice Oligui Nguema Sworn In After Coup
Gabon, a Central African nation rich in oil, finds itself at a historic crossroads as General Brice Oligui Nguema, the orchestrator of last week’s coup that ousted President Ali Bongo, has been sworn in as the interim leader of the country’s new military government. Nguema took the oath of office before judges of the Constitutional Court, pledging to “faithfully preserve the republican regime” and promising to oversee “free” and “transparent elections,” although no specific date has been set for this electoral transition.
The Coup and Its Justification
The coup, led by officers from the Gabonese Armed Forces, unfolded moments after President Bongo was declared the winner of the country’s disputed presidential elections. The coup leaders alleged that Bongo’s victory, with 64% of the vote, was fraudulent and that his 14-year rule had eroded “social cohesion,” posing a threat to the nation’s stability.
Nguema, who previously served as the Republican Guard chief, was swiftly named as the new ruler of Gabon. This marked the end of the Bongos’ long-standing reign over the country, a family that had held power since 1967.
Nguema’s Vision and Justification
During his inauguration speech, General Nguema argued that the military intervention was a response to an “electoral coup d’état” arising from an “outrageously biased” electoral process. He stated that the defense and security forces faced a difficult choice: either suppress the legitimate protests of Gabonese citizens or halt a flawed electoral process that prevented genuine democratic expression.
Nguema outlined a series of proposed reforms for the country, including a referendum on a revised constitution, the introduction of new electoral legislation and penal code, and measures aimed at fostering economic development.
Commitment to Reconciliation
General Nguema also expressed his commitment to reconciliation and healing in Gabon. He announced that he had instructed the “future government” to promptly address the return of all “political exiles” and grant amnesty to “prisoners of conscience.” These steps are seen as critical moves to unite a nation divided by recent events.
The swearing-in ceremony, held at the Presidential Palace in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, witnessed the presence of several officials from the ousted government, including the vice president and prime minister. Supporters cheered the dawn of a new era, recognizing the potential for change and a fresh start for their country.
Regional and International Reactions
The coup in Gabon is part of a broader trend of military takeovers that have occurred in West and Central Africa. Recent years have witnessed military leaders seizing power in Niger (July 2023), Burkina Faso (2022), and Chad, Guinea, and Mali (2021), all of which are former French colonies.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council responded to Bongo’s removal by suspending Gabon from the organization. The Economic Community of Central African States and France, Gabon’s former colonizer, have both issued strong condemnations of the coup, emphasizing their commitment to constitutional rule and democratic governance.
As Gabon enters a new phase in its history under General Nguema’s leadership, the eyes of the international community remain fixed on the nation, hopeful for a peaceful transition, reconciliation, and a return to democratic processes. The path ahead for Gabon will be determined by the actions and policies of its new military government in the coming days and weeks.
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