End of Bongo dynasty in Gabon as Nguema set to be sworn in

The general who seized power in last week’s coup in Gabon will be inaugurated as the “transitional president” on Monday, marking the end of the Bongo dynasty’s 55-year rule.

General Brice Oligui Nguema, the leader of the elite Republican Guard, orchestrated a military coup last Wednesday against President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family had held power for over five decades.

The coup took place shortly after President Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, was declared the winner of last month’s presidential election, a result contested by the opposition and deemed fraudulent.

The putsch was “bloodless”, according to Oligui, with no reports of deaths or injuries.

The leaders of the coup announced the dissolution of the country’s institutions, annulled the election results, and temporarily closed the borders, though they later announced a decision to reopen them.

Many other nations have not recognized Oligui as the legitimate leader of Gabon, and he is under pressure to outline his plans for the reinstatement of civilian governance.

Following the coup announcement, Oligui was enthusiastically lifted up by his troops, and in the days since, he has been observed alongside generals and colonels.

He has reiterated his commitment to organizing “free, transparent, credible, and peaceful elections,” without specifying a date but emphasizing the need to adopt a new constitution through a referendum before proceeding.

On Friday, he pledged to establish more democratic institutions that uphold human rights but emphasized that the process would proceed “without haste.”

Some elements of the former opposition are urging Oligui to transfer power, but a significant portion of Gabonese citizens appear content with the removal of the Bongo dynasty, as evident in celebrations in the streets of Libreville, the capital, and Port-Gentil, the economic hub.

Numerous Western countries and organizations have denounced the coup, although they recognize that it differs from others on the continent due to concerns about the election’s credibility.

“Naturally, military coups are not the solution, but we must not forget that in Gabon there had been elections full of irregularities,” said the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Following the coup, General Oligui has engaged in extensive discussions with prominent figures, including business leaders, religious leaders, unions, political parties, NGOs, diplomats, and journalists. He has been meticulously documenting these discussions and providing comprehensive responses to questions and concerns.

Make noise for Bongos

Former President Bongo had been pursuing his third term in office, having assumed power in 2009 following the passing of his father, Omar, who held an authoritarian grip on Gabon for more than four decades.

The coup leaders said Wednesday they had put him under house arrest and placed him “in retirement”.

However, Bongo managed to circulate a video on social media in which he claimed that his son and wife, Sylvia, had been apprehended. He implored “friends from all around the world” to raise their voices on his behalf.

On Friday, national TV broadcasted footage displaying the deposed president’s son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and other detained officials standing before suitcases brimming with cash that purportedly were confiscated from their residences.

The military has levied a slew of charges against them, including treason, embezzlement, corruption, and forging the president’s signature, among other allegations.

In the past three years, five other African countries, namely Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Niger, have experienced coups. The new leaders in these nations have resisted calls for a swift return to civilian rule.

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