General Brice Oligui Nguema, the Gabonese leader behind last week’s coup that brought down Gabon’s longstanding ruling dynasty of 55 years, was inaugurated as interim president on Monday. During his swearing-in ceremony, he pledged to organize “free, transparent, and credible elections” to reinstate civilian governance in Gabon, refraining from specifying a timeline for these elections.
Furthermore, General Oligui Nguema made a commitment to grant amnesty to political detainees, emphasizing that the coup had prevented potential violence in the aftermath of elections that were widely criticized as unfair.
The coup unfolded when General Oligui Nguema, the commander of the elite Republican Guard, led an operation to detain President Ali Bongo Ondimba last Wednesday. Ali Bongo, a member of the family that had held power in the oil-rich Central African nation since 1967, had just been declared the winner of the presidential elections, a result vehemently contested by the opposition.
In his post-inauguration speech, the Gabonese General, Oligui Nguema outlined that the forthcoming elections would serve as a crucial step in “returning authority to the civilian population,” though he refrained from specifying a date. He also expressed his intent to involve all of Gabon’s “core groups” in the process of drafting a new constitution, which would subsequently be adopted through a referendum.
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Donning the ceremonial red attire of the Republican Guard, the 48-year-old leader additionally announced his intention to instruct the “future government” to explore options for pardoning prisoners of conscience and facilitating the repatriation of exiled individuals from abroad.
“I swear before God and the Gabonese people to faithfully preserve the republican regime,” said Oligui.
In a solemn ceremony conducted in the presence of the judges from Gabon’s Constitutional Court, General Brice Oligui Nguema, took a solemn oath to “safeguard the gains of democracy.”
Following the apprehension of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, the leaders of the coup, on Wednesday, declared the dissolution of Gabon’s governmental institutions, annulled the election outcomes, and imposed a temporary closure of the nation’s borders.
However, General Brice Oligui Nguema’s claim to leadership in Gabon has not received international recognition, and he is under mounting pressure to articulate his strategies for reinstating civilian governance.
In his address, General Oligui Nguema staunchly justified the coup, asserting that the military had intervened to prevent loss of life in the wake of “an electoral process that was evidently marred by irregularities.”
“Without violence, clashes or loss of blood, the Committee for Transition and Restoration of Institutions changed the regime which for years had usurped the powers of the institutions of the public, flouting democratic rules,” he said, referring to the name given to the junta.
Quoting South African anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu, he said:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
He criticized unnamed “international organizations” for their condemnation of the military seizure of power.
Gabon now joins the list of African nations, including Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Niger, that have experienced coups within the past three years. This troubling pattern has raised concerns not only in Africa but also globally.
“We are greatly surprised to hear certain international organizations condemn the act taken by soldiers who were simply upholding their oath to the flag — to save their country at the risk of their lives,” said Oligui.
Numerous Western nations and international bodies have denounced the coup, albeit recognizing its distinctiveness from other occurrences on the continent, primarily due to apprehensions regarding the legitimacy of the electoral process.