Coup leaders in Gabon appoint General Brice Oligwe Nguema as the new leader

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His forces carried General Nguema victorious through the streets of the capital, Libreville

Army officers who seized power in a coup in Gabon on Wednesday appointed General Brice Olige Nguema as interim leader of the West African country.

Earlier, his forces carried General Nguema triumphantly through the streets of the capital, Libreville.

Ousted President Ali Bongo appeared in a video from his home, calling on his “friends around the world” to “make noise” on his behalf.

This former French colony is one of the main oil producing countries in Africa.

The ouster of Mr. Bongo ended his family’s 55-year hold on power.

Army officers appeared on television in the early hours of Wednesday to say they had seized power.

They said they had canceled the results of the elections that took place on Saturday, in which Bongo was declared the winner, but the opposition said they were fraudulent.

Officers also said they had arrested one of Mr Bongo’s sons on charges of treason.

Video explanation,

Watch: Ali Bongo, sitting in what he calls his residence, calls on his supporters to “make noise”

Within hours, the generals met to discuss who would lead the transition, and unanimously agreed to appoint General Nguema, the former head of the presidential guard.

Crowds in Libreville and elsewhere celebrated the army’s announcement.

But the coup was condemned by the United Nations, the African Union and France, which had close ties to the Bongo family.

The US State Department urged Gabon’s military to “maintain civilian rule” and urged “those responsible to release members of the government and ensure their safety.” The United Kingdom condemned the “unconstitutional military seizure” of power.

There has long been intense resentment towards the Bongo family – who ruled Gabon for 55 years – and there has been general discontent over broader issues such as the cost of living.

A Libreville resident, who requested to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “At first I was afraid, but then I felt joy.” “I was afraid because I realized that I was experiencing a coup, but the joy is that we have waited a long time for this regime to be overthrown.”

Gabon coup: the basics

Where is Gabon located? It is an oil and mineral-rich country located on the west coast of Central Africa, with a population of only 2.4 million people.

Who is Ali Bongo? He declared victory in the disputed election on Saturday and has been president of the country since 2009. Before that, his father was in power for 41 years.

Why was there a coup? The army does not accept the election results and says it seized power to keep the peace.

General Nguema (48 years old) was absent from the first three statements read by senior army officers on national television to announce the coup.

But he was appointed interim leader soon after, and was carried through the streets to jubilant scenes.

Image source, Getty Images

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People were celebrating in the streets

He was an aide to the deposed leader’s father, Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for nearly 42 years until his death in 2009.

A former close colleague told the AFP news agency that General Nguema was very close to Omar Bongo, serving him from 2005 until his death in a Spanish hospital.

Under Ali Bongo, he initially worked as a military attaché in the Gabonese embassies in Morocco and Senegal.

But in 2018, he was appointed head of intelligence for the elite Republican Guard – Gabon’s most powerful military unit – replacing Frederic Bongo, Ali Bongo’s half-brother, before being promoted to general.

As in previous general elections in Gabon, there were serious concerns about the voting process that took place on Saturday.

Main opposition candidate Albert Ondo Osa complained that many polling stations lacked ballot papers bearing his name, while the coalition he represents said the names of some who withdrew from the presidential race were still on the ballot paper.

Opponents have questioned Mr. Bongo’s two previous wins as fraudulent. This time, controversial changes were made to voting papers just weeks before Election Day.

In 2018, he suffered a stroke that kept him out of action for about a year and led to him being asked to step down.

The following year, a failed coup attempt sent rebel soldiers to prison.

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