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Gabon's New Military Leader Has Been Sworn in as Interim President
Gabon's new military leader, General Brice Oligui Nguema, takes charge after ousting the five-decade rule of the family of deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema was officially sworn in as the new head of state in Gabon on Monday, less than a week after orchestrating the ousting of the president whose family had governed the Central African nation for over five decades.
The inauguration ceremony took place in the presidential palace amidst a packed room of government officials, military personnel, and local leaders in Gabon's capital, Libreville. Oligui, a cousin of the deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who also served as a bodyguard to his late father, heads the republican guard, an elite military unit.
Addressing a jubilant crowd with applause and standing ovations, Oligui emphasized that the military's seizure of power had been accomplished without violence. He pledged to return power to the people through the organization of free, transparent, and credible elections.
In a televised address on Friday, Gen. Nguema asserted that the military would act swiftly and decisively to prevent elections that would perpetuate the mistakes of the past, ensuring that the same individuals did not retain power.
Gabon's main opposition group, Alternance 2023, which claims to be the legitimate winner of the recent election, called on the international community to advocate for a return to civilian rule. Alexandra Pangha, a spokesperson for Alternance 2023 leader Albert Ondo Ossa, expressed hope that the international community would support the Republic and democratic order in Gabon by urging the military to relinquish power to civilians. She criticized the plan for Gen. Nguema's inauguration as a transitional president on Monday as "absurd."
The coup in Gabon marks the eighth such event in West and Central Africa since 2020, following similar incidents in Niger, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad. The international community, including the UN, the African Union, and France, which has historical ties to the Bongo family as its former colonial power, has condemned the coup.
Ali Bongo, who had been in power since 2009, appeared in a video from his home this week, appealing to his "friends all over the world" to support his cause.
A throng of thousands gathered at the Hassan II mosque's esplanade, adjacent to the presidential palace, since the early hours of the day to witness the inauguration of Gabon's new leader, who had removed Ali Bongo Ondimba from power after a 14-year rule.
Lucrèce Mengué, 28 years old and among the first attendees, expressed feelings of freedom, joy, and happiness, considering herself at the forefront of history being written. Euphoric crowds followed the ceremony on giant screens, waving hundreds of small tricolor flags representing Gabon's colors of green, yellow, and blue.
The mutinous soldiers who ousted Bongo last week claimed that his leadership risked pushing the country into chaos. They unanimously designated Oligui as the president of the transitional committee. Bongo's victory in the recent election had been widely criticized for irregularities and a lack of transparency.
The swift inauguration of Oligui is seen as an effort to establish legitimacy and consolidate his power, dissuading potential challengers from contesting his rule, according to Maja Bovcon, a senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk assessment firm. However, the plan to rewrite the constitution and electoral code suggests that the transition period may extend for months or even years.
Bongo had served two terms since assuming power in 2009 following the death of his father, who had ruled the country for 41 years. There had been widespread discontent with his family's extended rule, and a previous group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was swiftly suppressed.
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