June 13, 2024

Gabon’s interim president, General Brice Nguema, has stated that the military junta, which removed President Ali Bongo from power, intends to take a measured approach to conducting elections to prevent the recurrence of past mistakes.

During a televised address on state-owned TV, Mr. Nguema, who played a significant role in upholding the Bongo dynasty, emphasized that the military regime does not want to rush the electoral process to avoid keeping the “same people” in power.

He said, “Our goal is to make progress as swiftly as possible, but without haste. Moving as swiftly as possible does not mean hastily organizing elections that would result in the same mistakes, allowing the same individuals to remain in power, and returning to the same situation.”

On the early morning of the previous Wednesday, the Gabonese military, led by Mr. Nguema, ousted Mr. Bongo from office shortly after he was declared the winner of the August 26 election, which would have secured him a third term. Following the coup, Mr. Nguema was installed as the transitional president and is set to be sworn in on Monday.

Mr. Nguema, who is a cousin of Mr. Bongo, held prominent roles in the ousted president’s government, including diplomatic missions to Morocco and Senegal. In 2019, he replaced Mr. Bongo’s step-brother as the head of Gabon’s Republican Guard, an elite force responsible for protecting Mr. Bongo, his family, and other high-profile individuals.

Mr. Nguema’s statement comes amid international criticism of Mr. Bongo’s removal from power, leading to the suspension of Gabon by the African Union.

Albert Ondo Ossa, an opposition candidate, has called on the Gabonese military to allow the completion of the August 26 election and declare him as president. He stated, “I am urging them to restore the rule of law and the constitution. The electoral process must reach its conclusion, and the results must be announced so that I can become the legitimate president, later validated by the Constitutional Court.”

From his detention, Mr. Bongo urged his friends and the international community to raise awareness about his ouster. Mr. Bongo had held power since 2009 when he succeeded his father, the late Omar Bongo, who had ruled the country for over four decades.

His removal from office was met with celebrations in the streets of Gabon, and the military seized a substantial amount of money found in the homes of government officials. Calls for Mr. Bongo to step down had intensified since he suffered a stroke in 2018, but he remained in office and was declared the winner of a controversial election.

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