Constitutional court judges swore in the leader of a coup that ousted Gabon’s President Ali Bongo as interim president on Monday in a televised ceremony, solidifying the junta’s grip on power.
On August 30, the eighth coup in three years in West and Central Africa took place under the direction of military officers under General Brice Oligui Nguema. They took control minutes after an announcement that Bongo had secured a third term in an election, which they annulled and declared not credible.
The audience of military officers and officials gave Nguema a standing ovation as he arrived for the ceremony, and they gave him another one just after he was sworn in. State TV shows images of a cheering crowd and tanks firing into the sea to mark the moment.
Cheering crowds filled the streets of the capital, Libreville, as the coup ended the Bongo family’s 56-year hold on power in the oil-producing country. However, the international community condemned the coup.
Litany of promises
General Brice Oligui Nguema has promised to restore civilian rule through “free, transparent, and credible elections,” without providing a timeframe.
In a speech, he also promised to grant amnesty to political prisoners, emphasising that the coup had prevented bloodshed in Gabon following elections that were “clearly biased.”
Last Wednesday, Oligui, the head of the elite Republican Guard, led officers in detaining President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who comes from a family that has ruled the oil-rich central African nation since 1967.
Just moments after proclaiming Bongo, 64, as the victor in the presidential elections, the opposition branded the result a fraud and ousted him.
In a speech after taking the oath of office, Oligui stated that we would use the promised elections as a stepping stone to “hand power back to the civilians,” without specifying any date.
He stated that he is seeking the participation of all of Gabon’s “core groups” to draft a new constitution, which “will be adopted by referendum.”
Oligui, 48, wears the red ceremonial costume of the Republican Guard. He also states that he will instruct “the future government… to consider ways of amnestying prisoners of conscience” and “facilitating the return of all exiles” from abroad.
The leaders of the Central African regional bloc ECCAS will meet in person on Monday to discuss their response to the ouster. Last week, the African Union and the United Nations led a call for partners to support a quick return to constitutional order.
The junta has not yet announced how long it envisions holding power. On Friday, Nguema stated that it will proceed “quickly but surely,” but cautioned that too much haste could lead to elections that lack credibility.