Monday, December 4, 2023

Gabon: We’re in no hurry to hand over power to civilians, says military junta

The military junta said that it will take its time to conduct elections to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

• September 3, 2023
General Brice Nguema
General Brice Nguema [Credit; Punch Newspapers]

Gabon’s transitional president, General Brice Nguema, says the military junta that ousted President Ali Bongo will take its time to conduct elections to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

Mr Nguema, who played an active role in perpetuating the Bongo dynasty, in an address televised on state-owned TV Friday, said the military regime does not want to conduct elections in a hurry to avoid having “same people” in power.

“Our aim is to move as quickly as possible, quickly but surely.

“Moving as quickly as possible doesn’t mean organising elections in a rush where we’ll end up with the same mistakes, where the same people will continue in power, and it all comes back to the same thing,” Mr Nguema said. 

The Gabon military, led by Mr Nguema, in the early hours of last Wednesday, ousted Mr Bongo out of office, shortly after he was declared winner of the August 26 election that would’ve seen him stay in office for a third term.

Shortly after the coup, the military installed Mr Nguema as transitional president. He will be sworn in on Monday.

Mr Nguema, a cousin to Mr Bongo, played an active role in the ousted president’s government. After taking over the reins of power, Mr Bongo sent him on a diplomatic mission to Morocco and Senegal. In 2019, Mr Nguema replaced Mr Bongo’s step-brother as head of Gabon’s Republican Guard, an elite force protecting Mr Bongo, his family and other high-profile figures.

Mr Nguema’s statement comes amid criticism against the ousting of Mr Bongo from the international community. The African Union has suspended Gabon. 

Albert Ondo Ossa, opposition candidate, has charged the Gabon military to allow the conclusion of the August 26 election and declare him president. 

“I’m asking it (military) to restore republican and constitutional order,” Mr Ossa told Le Monde in an interview on Friday.

“The electoral process must be brought to a conclusion, and the results must be announced so that I can become the legitimate president and then the legal president once they have been validated by the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Speaking from detention, Mr Bongo charged his friends and the international community to “make noise,” and raise the alarm over his ouster. 

Mr Bongo had been in power since 2009, when he took over from his father, the late Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for over 40 years.

His ouster sparked celebration across the streets of Gabon, while the military confisticated huge cache of money stashed in homes of government officials. 

Calls for Mr Bongo to step down got intense when he suffered a stroke in 2018, but he remained in office and was declared winner of a controversial election. 

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