Gabon’s coup leader sworn in as interim president, pledges reform

Gabon's new strongman General Brice Oligui Nguema (2nd R) greets members of staff after he was inaugurated as Gabon's interim President, in Libreville on September 4, 2023. Gabon's coup leader vowed after being sworn in as interim president on September 4, 2023 to restore civilian rule through "free, transparent and credible elections" after a transition and amnesty prisoners of conscience. (Photo by AFP)

 

Gen. Brice Nguema, the leader of the coup that ousted Gabon’s President Ali Bongo was sworn in as interim president on Monday.

 

Nguema was cheered by jubilant supporters in a televised ceremony designed to cast the military as liberators of an oppressed society.

 

In West and Central Africa’s eight coup in three years, army officers led by Nguema seized power on Aug. 30, minutes after an announcement that Bongo had won an election they annulled and said was not credible.

 

“Like a meteorite in the dark of night, our country’s defence and security forces assumed their responsibilities.

 

“It was without violence, without clashes, and without bloodshed that the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) changed the regime that had been confusing the power of the Republic’s institutions for several years.

 

“This was in flagrant disregard of democratic rules,” he said.

 

Nguema’s speech – repeatedly interrupted by cheers – also proposed reforms.

 

They included a new constitution to be adopted after a referendum, new electoral and penal codes and measures to prioritise local banks and companies for economic development.

 

He said political exiles would be welcomed back and political prisoners freed.

 

Several figures from Bongo’s government, including the vice president and prime minister, attended the ceremony.

 

Bongo himself remains under house arrest.

 

The coup – ending the Bongo family’s 56-year grip on power – had drawn cheering crowds onto the streets of the capital Libreville.

However, it has also been condemned abroad.

Central African regional bloc (ECCAS) has urged partners, led by the United Nations and the African Union, to support a rapid return to constitutional order.

At his inauguration, Nguema reiterated that his administration would organise free and fair elections – though gave no timetable.

He has previously said the junta would proceed “quickly but surely” but cautioned that too much haste could lead to elections that lacked credibility. (Reuters/NAN)

 

 

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