Experts Doubt Regional Leaders’ Support for Bongo’s Reinstatement in Gabon
Last Thursday, an announcement was made by Gabon’s military leaders regarding the release of Ali Bongo Ondimba, the country’s ousted leader, from his house arrest. This comes after a surprising coup on August 30. State-run media featured Ondimba greeting officials while the military shared that he is now “free to move” overseas.
Coinciding with this development, Raymond Ndong Sima was appointed as the interim prime minister by the military chiefs. Notably, Sima, aged 68 and an economist by profession, had held the position of prime minister under Bongo from 2012 to 2014. An advocate for change, Sima had also stood against Bongo in the recent elections.
General Brice Oligui Nguema, who leads the Gabonese Republican Guard, was named as the transitional head of state by the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, just days post the coup.
International and Regional Response
David Otto-Endeley, an expert from the Geneva Center for African Security and Strategic Studies, was quoted by the VOA as saying that while the regional bloc, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), may condemn the appointment, they might not actively call for Bongo’s return. He highlighted the differences between the coup in Gabon and other recent uprisings in African nations. Otto-Endeley also touched upon the introduction of a rule that seemingly put the major opposition in the country, the Alternance 2023 alliance, at a disadvantage.
Following the coup, the digital blackout and the enforced curfew painted a concerning picture. “Gabon, unfortunately, mirrors the string of coups we’ve seen in nations like Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, and Sudan. Yet, Gabon’s scenario has its own unique dynamics,” Otto-Endeley mentioned.
Repercussions and Future Predictions
End of an era is how many describe the coup in Gabon. Otto-Endeley expressed that the military’s long-standing role in safeguarding dynastic reigns is turning, suggesting that the same force once used to suppress the people might now be seen as their liberator.
Maja Bovcon, an analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, seconded the sentiment, pointing out the decreasing likelihood of international bodies advocating for Bongo’s return, given his dwindling public support.
Since the Gabonese coup, other African leaders like Cameroonian President Paul Biya and Rwandan President Paul Kagame have reportedly revised their military leadership, although ties to the events in Gabon are speculative.
Lastly, Andrea Ngombet from the Sassoufit Collective noted that the coup’s core aim was ending the Bongo family’s reign. He emphasized that multinational entities and global partners need to tread carefully. Hastened global disapproval of the coup could inadvertently push Gabon closer to nations like Russia and China.
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