Can General Nujoma usher in a new era?

Promoting cell phone equipment in a small open-air store in Libreville, Gabon’s capital, Dulles Gabriel sees coup chief Normal Brice Oligwe Ngoma as a Moses-like determine who freed the nation from the shackles of his former boss – President Ali Bongo.

The 23-year-old mentioned: “Moses acquired his schooling in the home of Pharaoh, however God tasked him with liberating the folks of Egypt from slavery. That is what occurs in the home of Bongo.”

Her feedback mirrored the enjoyment and hopes of many individuals who lived underneath the Bongo household. The household has dominated oil-rich Gabon with an iron fist for the previous seven years because it gained independence from France in 1960.

Omar Bongo turned president in 1967, and remained in energy till his demise in 2009. He was succeeded by his son, Ali Bongo, till he was ousted by Normal Nujoma final month.

The 48-year-old basic was, in Ms. Gabriel’s phrases, “a part of the home.” He was born within the south-eastern province of Haute-Ougoui, the Bongo household’s heartland. Some even say that he’s the ousted president’s cousin, and that he orchestrated a “palace coup” to retain the facility of the Bongo household.

Normal Nguema was very near Omar Bongo, and Ali Bongo – after initially marginalizing him – appointed him head of the elite Republican Guard, liable for his personal safety.

However shortly after Bongo was declared the winner of a disputed election final month, Normal Nguema seized energy from the person he was supposed to guard.

On the time, he mentioned Bongo shouldn’t have run for re-election.

He was quoted as saying, “Everyone seems to be speaking about this, however nobody takes duty. So the military determined to show the web page.”

Most individuals I spoke to on the streets of Libreville appeared to belief the general-turned-interim president.

People wave Gabon's national flags as they celebrate after the military coup, in the streets of Akanda, Gabon, August 30, 2023.

Many Gabonese have grown up figuring out solely the rule of the Bongo household

A big crowd cheered for him at his inauguration, whereas troopers organized their weapons on the bottom in a present of pressure.

“He mentioned he’ll maintain elections and we hope that by the grace of God, if he has the worry of God, he’ll maintain credible elections,” mentioned Helen Paul Mongalla, who went to witness the final’s inauguration.

Nevertheless, the ceremony was boycotted by main opposition presidential candidate Ondo Osa, who maintained that Mr Bongo had stolen the election from him and subsequently ought to have been sworn in as president as a substitute.

Some opposition members have critical doubts in regards to the coup, however are afraid to specific their opinions freely.

They level out that though Normal Nguema has launched some outstanding pro-democracy activists and commerce unionists from jail, he has not but indicated when civilian rule shall be restored.

Their biggest worry is that he plans to stay in energy and that Gabon will return to sq. one.

Normal Nguema has thus far taken a conciliatory strategy in direction of the ousted president, saying he’s free to journey overseas.

This contrasts with the state of affairs in Niger to the north, the place President Mohamed Bazoum stays detained – alongside along with his spouse and son – by the navy junta that ousted him only a month earlier than the military seized energy in Gabon.

However Bongo has thus far declined the provide to journey overseas, preferring to stay at his non-public residence in Libreville – one thing the junta’s newly appointed prime minister, Raymond Ndong Sima, confirmed to me once I met him in his workplace.

“He has no plans to go away now. I feel he’ll wait some time. Perhaps he’s taken with what is going to occur subsequent,” Sima mentioned, including that “there aren’t any restrictions on his freedom.”

A general view of a defaced billboard for the campaign of ousted Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba in Libreville on August 31, 2023.

Bongo and his father, Omar Bongo, have been sentenced to demise in Gabon for greater than 40 years

Many individuals in Gabon are calling on Normal Nguema to make sure that Mr Bongo is charged with corruption, claiming that the ousted president – and his household – enriched themselves on the expense of the nation throughout their many years in energy. They deny this allegation.

Mr Sima has given combined alerts about whether or not Mr Bongo shall be charged.

“I feel what individuals are involved about is that the case has not been opened,” he advised the BBC’s Newshour program final week. “I do not assume it could be doable to open a case at this second.”

Once I requested him whether or not Mr. Bongo’s former ministers can be prosecuted, he replied: “I feel so. The brand new authorities have already introduced that they are going to prosecute all these concerned in corruption or cash laundering. This can be a robust sign. We now have seen the folks arrested.”

Thus far, the navy has arrested three folks near Bongo on numerous fees, together with monetary embezzlement, marijuana trafficking, and forging the previous president’s signature when he suffered a stroke.

Yann N’Golo, chief of workers to Bongo’s eldest son, Noureddine Bongo, was publicly humiliated and paraded on state tv, together with a amount of money. He denied any wrongdoing and mentioned the cash belonged to him.

Former First Woman Sylvia Valentin Bongo, a French citizen, can be underneath investigation, Sima mentioned.

He added, “She is being interrogated at the moment and should clarify herself,” with out giving particulars of the accusations in opposition to her.

Gabon is an oil-rich nation, however a 3rd of its 2.4 million folks stay beneath the poverty line, based on the United Nations.

Opposition monetary and political analyst Jean Gaspard, based mostly in Libreville, mentioned the nation has a variety of potential however dangerous insurance policies have impoverished the nation.

He mentioned, “International corporations that extract oil within the nation don’t make use of Gabonese specialists, however quite appeal to expatriates. Solely the oil and timber sectors are being developed. The opposite sectors usually are not being developed.”

Soldiers stand at attention as Gabon's military junta inaugurates interim president General Brice Olégie Nguema in Libreville, Gabon, September 4, 2019.

The military displayed its power on the inauguration ceremony of Normal Nguema as interim president

Gabon has all the time maintained robust ties with its former colonial energy, France, the place its affect was most evident within the port metropolis of Port Gentil, the middle of the nation’s oil and timber industries.

Many French residents stay there and in addition personal eating places and bars. Anti-French sentiment is robust within the metropolis, the place some French-owned companies have been burned down in 2009.

This led to Mr Bongo banning anti-French protests. The navy junta has not but clarified whether or not it can carry the ban.

Not like Niger, one other former French colony, there have been no such protests because the coup, however outstanding anti-French activist in Port-Gentil, Kevin Mukadi, mentioned he wished “the French out of Gabon.”

He advised me: “We want help from different overseas powers. We do not need the French anymore. They need to depart our nation so we will be free.”

The navy junta that seized energy in Niger, in addition to in Mali and Burkina Faso, was hostile to France, accusing it of continuous to regulate issues lengthy after independence, however Sima mentioned Gabon wouldn’t comply with their instance.

Sima mentioned the junta will preserve its shut relationship with France as a serious investor in Gabon, whereas it can additionally strengthen relations with different nations with the intention to enhance the financial system.

He added, “Prior to now, we didn’t have many relations with… Asian nations, however right now the Chinese language have change into new companions.”

However Mr. Sima made it clear that he values ​​relations with France greater than others, saying: “It’s a nation that colonized our nation and it’s a nation with which relations are a lot older, so it’s logical that these relations must be stronger.”

His feedback will come as an enormous reduction to France, which has seen its affect in its former African colonies decline lately.

However to retain the inhabitants’s belief, the junta should work to enhance residing circumstances – and fulfill its promise to carry credible elections.

Mr. Sima is optimistic that change will occur.

He mentioned, “The method happening is calm and cozy. All the things is occurring peacefully. There isn’t a chaos. We wish a optimistic outlook for the long run.”

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