Raymond Ndong Sima, former Prime Minister under Ali Bongo Ondimba leaving the Presidential Palace after his new appointment by General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, President of the Transition in Gabon - as Prime Minister of the Transition, on September 7, 2023 in Libreville.
Photo by: Desirey Minkoh/Afrikimages Agency/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Gabon's Political Shift: Ousted President Gains Freedom Amidst Junta's New Leadership

Ali Bongo Ondimba released for medical treatment as new Prime Minister takes charge, signaling a change in Gabon's political landscape.

In a recent announcement, Gabon's junta has declared that former President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had been placed under house arrest following his ousting last week, was free to travel abroad for medical treatment. This development coincided with the appointment of a new prime minister.

Ali Bongo Ondimba was removed from power on August 30, shortly after controversial elections that would have extended his 14-year presidency. Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi, the military spokesman for Gabon, stated, "Given his state of health, the former President of the Republic Ali Bongo Ondimba is free to move about. He may if he wishes, travel abroad for medical checkups," during a televised statement on Wednesday.

General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, who took office as Gabon's new head of state on Monday, signed the statement announcing Bongo's release from house arrest. The health status of Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had previously suffered a stroke in late 2018, remains uncertain. Abdou Barry, the head of the U.N. Office for Central Africa, reported finding him in good health after a meeting late Wednesday.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, aged 64, was ousted amid a resurgence of coups in parts of Africa, shortly after being declared the winner of a disputed election that would have prolonged his family's 55-year rule. Raymond Ndong Sima, an economist and vocal critic of President Ali Bongo, was appointed as the "prime minister of the transition."

Sima had served as Bongo's prime minister from 2012 to 2014, then resigned and ran against him for president in 2016 and again as part of an opposition coalition in recent years. General Brice Oligui Nguema, the new interim president, announced Sima's appointment on state television.

In the meantime, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, the newly appointed military leader in Gabon, held meetings with regional and local authorities. He pledged to improve infrastructure and ensure a peaceful transition in the oil-rich Central African nation. During his meetings, he discussed the nation's current situation and the transition prospects with President Faustin Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic and Abdou Barry, the head of the U.N.'s Central Africa office.

Concerns persist regarding military takeovers and the delayed return to democracy in parts of Africa where lengthy transitions have been promised by military leaders. General Nguema has also vowed to return power to the people through free and transparent elections but has not provided a specific timeline for the vote.

In a meeting with senior Gabonese government officials, General Nguema pledged to bring "real development" to the Gabonese people, whose oil wealth has been perceived as benefiting only a few. He emphasized the importance of an effective administration to achieve national healthcare, improved education, and environmental policies, stating, "We want simple things for the Gabonese people."