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4 Sep, 2023 16:39

Gabon coup leader sworn in as interim president

The new military regime intends to transfer power to civilians by organizing new free and credible elections, General Nguema says
Gabon coup leader sworn in as interim president

Gabonese army general Brice Oligui Nguema, who led a coup last week to depose President Ali Bongo, has been sworn in as interim leader of the country’s new military government.

Nguema vowed to “faithfully preserve the republican regime” as he took the oath of office on Monday before judges of the Constitutional Court, promising “free” and “transparent elections” without specifying a date.

Officers from the Gabonese Armed Forces ousted Bongo, 64, on Wednesday, moments after he was declared the winner of the country’s disputed presidential elections, and placed him under house arrest.

The president’s victory with 64% of the vote was fraudulent, the coup leaders claimed, adding that his 14-year rule had deteriorated “social cohesion,” posing a threat to the nation’s stability.

Nguema, the Republican Guard chief, was named the new ruler of the oil-rich Central African country on Thursday, after the coup ended the reign of the Bongos, a family that had ruled Gabon since 1967.

In his inauguration speech, the coup leader stated that the soldiers acted against an “electoral coup d’état” that resulted from an “outrageously biased” electoral process.

The defense and security forces had a double choice: either kill Gabonese people, who would have legitimately demonstrated, or put an end to a rigged electoral process, the conditions of which did not allow democratic expression,” Nguema insisted.

He said a new government would be formed in a “few days” and proposed reforms such as a referendum on a revised constitution, new electoral legislation and penal code, and economic development measures.

Nguema additionally announced that he has directed the “future government” to “think without delay” about facilitating the return of all “political exiles” and granting amnesty to “prisoners of conscience.

The swearing-in ceremony, held at the Presidential Palace in the capital, Libreville, was reportedly attended by several officials from the ousted government, including the vice president and prime minister, amid cheers from supporters.

The coup in Gabon is the latest in a string of military takeovers in West and Central Africa. Military leaders seized power in Niger in July, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Chad, Guinea, and Mali in 2021, all former French colonies.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council suspended Libreville on Thursday following Bongo’s removal. The Economic Community of Central African States and Gabon’s former colonizer, France, have both “strongly” condemned the putsch.