7, December 2023
Gabon’s military leader, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, visited Cameroon on Wednesday, asking central African states to lift economic sanctions on his country before the 2025 elections.
When Nguema ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a bloodless coup on August 30, economic sanctions were imposed on the country by CEMAC, the six-nation Central Africa Economic and Monetary Community, which condemned the unconstitutional power shift and suspended Gabon.
Nguema said Wednesday that he and Cameroonian President Paul Biya discussed the possibility of lifting economic sanctions before he transfers power to constitutional rule in October 2025. Nguema said he took power to save Gabon from a long rule that ruined the country, and he wants to ensure order is brought back to Gabon before handing power to civilians.
Nguema’s visit to Cameroon ended a tour that has taken him to Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo since he seized power in August.
Jean Rene Oba, an international affairs lecturer at Omar Bongo University in Gabon, said Nguema has been able to convince central African leaders that a military coup was necessary to save Gabon from the Bongo family’s long and autocratic rule that impoverished civilians and created political and ethnic tensions.
“The president of the transition, Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, is totally mindful of the reality that here is no single country on earth that can live in its own bubble in the 21st century, so he started a campaign explaining the legitimacy of the action he took on behalf of the Gabonese people and I think the arguments that he has been making are very powerful and that is why we could see he is so welcomed and understood,” Oba said.
Nguema told several hundred Gabon civilians in Yaounde that he seized power to improve living conditions in their oil-producing nation because its citizens remained poor during the 56-year reign of Ali Bongo Ondimba and his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba.
Gabon’s military ruler reiterated that he would hold elections in August 2025.
He said a new constitution that is being prepared would be presented to all citizens in October 2024 and a referendum on its adoption would be held that same year.
Before the elections, Gabon’s military junta says it will fight corruption, accelerate economic reforms, ensure sustainable economic development, restore stability and revise the electoral code.
Georges Mpaga, president of Gabon’s Network of Free Society Organizations for Good Governance, said Nguema’s insistence on executing so many projects looks like a plan to hold onto power.
Mpaga said Nguema should give priority to Gabon’s supreme interest, which as of now is the quest for a return to constitutional order. He said Nguema should make sure Gabon has a constitution which grants and limits powers of government officials, and paves the way for democratic, credible, fair and transparent elections that meet international norms and standards.
Nguema said he will keep his pledge to hand over power to civilians and that he will never betray the confidence entrusted upon him by his country’s civilians and military, as well as a majority of political parties and civil society groups.