4, September 2023
General Brice Oligui Nguema has taken the oath of office as Gabon’s interim president, less than a week after he led a coup that toppled the 55-year-old ruling dynasty.
Oligui, the head of the republican guard, led officers in detaining President Ali Bongo Ondimba in the early hours of July 30, moments after the election body announced President Ali Bongo had won a third term.
Hours later, the president appeared in a video and called on his “friends” to “make noise.” He said he was under house arrest at his residence and that his wife and son were being held separately. In a speech after taking the oath, General Oligui promised “free, transparent and credible elections” to restore civilian rule.
He said he was seeking the participation of all “core groups” in the country to draft a new constitution, which “will be adopted by referendum.”
The general did not give a timeframe for election though.
“When the people are crushed by their leaders … it’s the army that gives them back their dignity,” he said. “People of Gabon, today the times of happiness that our ancestors dreamt of are finally coming.”
Oligui said he would instruct the future government “to consider ways of amnestying prisoners of conscience” and “facilitating the return of all exiles” from abroad.
The general strongly defended last week’s coup, describing it as a moment of national liberation and a manifestation of God’s will.
He said the military had acted to save lives following “an electoral process that was obviously loaded.”
After detaining the president, the coup leaders said they had dissolved the institutions, cancelled the election results and temporarily closed the borders.
In his remarks on Monday, Oligui hit out at “international organizations” for criticizing the military takeover.
“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.”
The United States, Britain, France and certain other states have condemned the coup in Gabon.
Gabon joined Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Niger in the ranks of African countries that have undergone coups in the past three years.