The military took control of Gabon on August 30, 2023, and General Brice Oligui Nguema, who had been serving the country’s longtime strongman as his deputy, was named the new president.
The elite republican guard chief was held joyfully aloft by his troops after the declaration of the coup that put an end to the Bongo family’s 55-year rule. He is an accomplished and well-liked figure among his contemporaries.
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The contested elections preceded the coup attempt.
After overthrowing President Ali Bongo Ondimba following Saturday’s contested elections, in which the incumbent won a third term with 64.27 percent of the vote, the coup leaders in Gabon nominated him.
Nguema, who is said to be discrete and covert, was not present during the first three statements that top army leaders read out on national television to proclaim the coup.
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However, although Bongo was under house arrest, he became Africa’s newest military commander amid joyous celebrations in the streets of Libreville, the country’s capital, and Port-Gentil, its commercial center.
Nguema, 48, who was born to a Fang father—the majority ethnic group in Gabon—grew up primarily with his mother in Haut-Ogooue province, a Bongo stronghold.
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Is it a Gabonese family rule?
As an aide-de-camp to the expelled leader’s father, Omar Bongo, who controlled Gabon with an iron grip for nearly 42 years until his passing in 2009, Nguema earned his stripes.
On condition of anonymity, a member of Bongo’s Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) said, “He’s someone who knows the Gabonese military apparatus very well, a good soldier, trained at good military schools,” including Morocco’s Meknes Royal Military Academy.
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Nguema was very close to Bongo senior, serving him from 2005 till his passing in a Barcelona hospital, according to a former close coworker who spoke to AFP.
However, Ali Bongo, who had been chosen to succeed his father, replaced Nguema in 2009, and he began a ten-year assignment as a military attache in Gabon’s embassies in Senegal and Morocco.
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In 2018, Nguena regained fame.
In place of Ali Bongo’s half-brother Frederic Bongo, he rose to prominence in 2018 as the republican guard’s intelligence chief. Six months later, he was appointed to general.
Close sources describe the bald and athletically built general as charming and well-respected. He has been in charge of the republican guard, the nation’s most powerful army unit, since 2019.
Nguema, who served as the backbone of Gabon’s security forces, pushed Bongo Junior to upgrade his men’s working and living environments, pay for the children of soldiers’ soldiers’ education, and renovate some residential quarters.
According to the PDG source, his colleagues showed him respect and compassion as a result of the actions. He doesn’t talk much, but his men really appreciate him.
He is a Julius Caesar, and Julius Caesar is concerned about the welfare of his legionaries,” the source claimed, alluding to the Roman general who later ascended to power.
The army of Gabon was present.
He was described as “a man of consensus, who never raises his voice, who listens to everyone, and who systematically seeks compromise” by his former coworker.
He helped to stage the coup without any apparent bloodshed by integrating officers from all army branches in the new ruling Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, as an illustration of his unifying style.
Nguema claimed Bongo has “been placed in retirement” but that he hasn’t specified a timeline for returning to civilian control, casting doubt on his motivations.
Agence France Presse