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Gabon coup leader vows democracy but says it will take time

General Brice Oligui Nguema, who led military officers in seizing power in Gabon, said the dissolution of the country’s institutions was “temporary,” amid pressure on the junta to hand power to a civilian government

“It is a question of reorganizing [institutions] in order to make them more democratic and more in line with international standards… for human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law,” he said in a televised address on Friday evening.

Oligui is due to be sworn in as “transitional president” on Monday, but he has not been internationally recognized as the country’s legitimate leader. 

On Wednesday, military officers placed President Ali Bongo under house arrest minutes after an announcement that he had secured a third term in the latest contested elections. Bongo’s family had ruled Gabon for more than five decades. 

What did Oligui say? 

The military general said the junta would proceed with its plans “quickly but surely” while trying to avoid repeating previous mistakes by keeping the same people in power.

“Going as quickly as possible does not mean organizing ad hoc elections, where we will end up with the same errors,” Oligui said. 

His remarks came after ECCAS, the Central African regional bloc, urged a rapid return to constitutional order, and the African Union called for fair and transparent reaction. 

Oligui also warned business leaders in the oil-rich state against “over-billing,” a day after meeting 200 of them and accusing some of them of complicity in corruption with the old regime.

“It is difficult to perceive, at this stage, your commitment or patriotism when it comes to the development expected by our compatriots,” he said. Oligui also said he would make sure the overcharged money “comes back to the state.”

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What does the opposition say? 

The main opposition group, Alternance 2023, says it is the rightful winner of the most recent election that was held last Saturday. The group has called on the international community to encourage the junta to hand power back to civilians.

“We are happy that they put Bongo out of the presidency. But now we want to work on Gabon,” Alexandra Pangha, the spokesperson for the opposition candidate Albert Ondo Ossa, told DW on Friday. 

“Therefore, we need the military [rule] to end so that all the projects, all the plans that Mr. Ossa and many of the opposition had, we can work on it and give Gabon a better side, a happier side.”

She added that the opposition hoped to get an invitation from the junta to discuss a transition plan. 

Later on Friday, the US said it was pursuing “viable diplomatic solutions” to the situations in both Gabon and Niger, where a coup ousted elected President Mohamed Bazoum late July. 

The latest developments in Gabon, located on the west coast of Central Africa, come after coups in nearby Chad, West Africa’s Guinea, Niger, as well as two each in Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020.

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fb/msh (AFP, Reuters) 

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