The general who came to power in Gabon’s coup last week is to be sworn in as “transitional president” on Monday, taking control for an unspecified period after overthrowing the country’s 55-year Bongo dynasty.
General Brice Oligui Nguema, the head of the elite Republican Guard, led officers in a military coup on Wednesday against President Ali Bongo Ondimba, scion of a family that had ruled for more than five decades.
The ousting came just moments after Bongo, 64, was proclaimed victor in last month’s presidential election – a result branded a fraud by the opposition.
The putsch was “bloodless”, according to Oligui, with no reports of deaths or injuries.
The coup leaders said they had dissolved the nation’s institutions, cancelled the election results, and closed the borders, later adding they had decided to reopen them.
Other countries have not acknowledged Oligui as Gabon’s legitimate leader and he faces pressure to spell out his plans for restoring civilian rule.
Oligui was lifted up triumphantly by his troops following the announcement of the coup, and in the days since has been seen flanked by generals and colonels.
He has repeated his promise to organise “free, transparent, credible and peaceful elections”, without specifying when they would take place but saying that a new constitution must first be adopted by referendum.
On Friday, he vowed to create more democratic institutions that respect human rights, but said he would proceed “without haste”.
A fringe of the former opposition is urging Oligui to hand over power, but many people in Gabon seem happy about the overthrow of the Bongo dynasty, with celebrations in the streets of the capital Libreville and the economic hub of Port-Gentil.
Several Western countries and organisations have condemned the coup while acknowledging that it is different to others on the continent due to concerns over the credibility of the vote itself.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “Naturally, military coups are not the solution, but we must not forget that in Gabon there had been elections full of irregularities.”
Since the overthrow, Oligui has held hours of high-profile discussions with business and religious leaders, unions, political parties, NGOs, diplomats, and journalists, and has been taking notes and responding at length to questions and grievances.
Former president Bongo had been seeking his third term in office after coming to power in 2009 following the death of his father Omar, who ruled Gabon with an iron fist for over 40 years.
The coup leaders said on Wednesday they had put him under house arrest and placed him “in retirement”.
But Bongo managed to distribute a video on social media where he said his son and wife Sylvia had been detained, appealing to “all friends that we have all over the world… to make noise” on his behalf.
This video grab taken from Gabon 24 on 30 August 2023 shows Gabonese soldiers carrying General Brice Oligui Nguema (C), head of the presidential guard of ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
National TV on Friday showed rolling images of the deposed president’s son Noureddin Bongo Valentin and other arrested officials in front of suitcases filled with cash allegedly seized from their homes.
The military has accused them of treason, embezzlement, corruption and falsifying the president’s signature, among other allegations.
Five other countries in Africa – Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso and Niger – have undergone coups in the last three years.
Their new rulers have resisted demands for a short timetable for returning to barracks.