Gabon’s coup leader says he is not in a hurry to hold elections, as he wants to avoid repeating “the same mistakes” that led to the overthrow of President Ali Bongo last week. General Brice Oligui Nguema, who was named as the transitional leader by a group of military officers, said he was committed to restoring democracy and stability in the oil-rich Central African nation. He also called for dialogue and reconciliation among all political forces.
Gen Nguema, who was formerly the head of the presidential guard and a close aide to Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo, who ruled for 41 years until his death in 2009, said he had no personal ambition to stay in power. He said he was acting in the best interest of the Gabonese people, who had suffered from “irresponsible and unpredictable governance” under Bongo’s regime.
The coup, which took place on Wednesday, August 30, came hours after Bongo was declared the winner of the presidential election held on Saturday, August 26. The election was marred by allegations of fraud and irregularities by the opposition, which claimed victory ahead of the official announcement. Bongo’s main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, denounced the coup as a “coup d’etat orchestrated by the Bongo family” to retain their control over the country.
The international community, including the United Nations, the African Union and France, which has close ties to Gabon, condemned the coup and called for a swift return to constitutional order. Bongo, who has been in power since 2009, appeared in a video at his home on Thursday, August 31, calling on his supporters to “make noise” on his behalf and resist the coup.
Gabon is one of Africa’s major oil producers, with a population of about 2.4 million people. It has been ruled by the Bongo family since 1967, when Omar Bongo came to power after a coup that toppled the country’s first president, Leon Mba. Omar Bongo was Africa’s longest-serving leader until his death in 2009, when he was succeeded by his son Ali Bongo.