Gabon’s Military Leader, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, was inaugurated as the interim head of state just days after toppling the sitting president, marking an end to over fifty years of rule by one family in the Central African country on Monday, September 4th.
The inauguration ceremony, held at the presidential palace in Libreville, was attended by a vast assembly of both civil and military officials.
A cousin to the deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Nguema has previously held prestigious military positions.
During his inaugural address, he highlighted the nonviolent nature of the power shift. He also promised “free, transparent” elections in the near future, vowing to “give everyone a chance to hope.” However, a specific timeline to end the military rule was not provided.
He also hinted at imminent political changes, stating that a fresh government would be in place “in a few days.” Proposals for new electoral policies, an updated penal code, and a referendum for a renewed constitution were among his announcements.
On Thursday, September 7th, it was announced that former opposition leader Raymond Ndong Sima was appointed as Prime Minister of Gabon. Sima was the PM under Bongo from 2012 to 2014 before resigning and running his own presidential campaign against him.
The military, which played a pivotal role in overthrowing Bongo after allegations of election fraud, has given its backing to Nguema.
This transition has been met with varying reactions – while some in Gabon welcomed it, others, including international bodies like the African Union and France, criticized the move.
Bongo’s dynasty has previously faced criticism and unrest, with an unsuccessful coup attempt in 2019.
Opposition candidate Albert Ondo Ossa disputes the recent presidential election results, viewing the events as a disappointment and seeing them primarily as an internal family power struggle.
In a statement, Ossa said, “It was a palace revolution, not a coup d’etat. This is a family affair, where one brother replaces another.”
Ossa, backed by six opposition groups who claimed 30% of the votes in the recent elections, has called for a speedy return to civilian rule.
As a former French colony and OPEC member, Gabon has substantial oil revenues. Yet, its wealth remains in the hands of a limited few. According to the World Bank, the nation grappled with substantial unemployment in 2020, with nearly 40% of its youth unemployed.
Gen Nguema’s takeover is the most recent among several military coups in West and Central Africa.
Over the past three years, Gabon is the sixth francophone country to transition to military leadership, highlighting the waning influence of its former colonial ruler, France, in the region.