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General Nguema named Gabon’s transitional leader after coup

The new leader was the erstwhile head of the presidential guard and reportedly a relative of deposed President Ali Bongo.

A military vehicle passes by people celebrating after military officers announced they had taken power, [Gaetan M-Antchouwet/via REUTERS]

General Brice Oligui Nguema, leader of Gabon’s elite Republican Guard – the unit in charge of the president’s security – has been named as the country’s transition leader.

The notification on Wednesday came hours after the announcement of a military takeover on state-run television that itself followed the electoral commission’s declaration of a win for President Ali Bongo in Saturday’s election.

Bongo had won 64.27 percent of the vote, a contested victory in an election the opposition said was a “fraud orchestrated” by Bongo and his supporters. Leading opposition candidate Albert Ossa, who represented a merger of six parties, came second with 30 percent of the vote.

Nguema is one of the most influential and enigmatic figures in the country and is believed to be related to the deposed president. As the son of a military officer, he was inclined to join the military from a young age and trained at the Royal Military Academy of Meknes, in Morocco.

His military skills were noticed by members of Gabon’s former President Omar Bongo’s Republican Guard.

Nguema then served as Bongo’s “aides-de-camp” or military assistant to a commander in the guard, until the former Gabonese leader’s death in 2009.

When Omar Bongo’s son Ali Bongo rose to power in October 2009, Nguema was sent to Morocco and Senegal for diplomatic missions, but returned to Gabon in 2018. A year later, he took over as the head of the guard.

Curfew announced

Earlier, coup leaders said there would be a curfew from 6pm to 6am but people would be allowed to move about freely during the day on Thursday.

“The president of the transition insists on the need to maintain calm and serenity in our beautiful country … At the dawn of a new era, we will guarantee the peace, stability and dignity of our beloved Gabon,” Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi said on state TV.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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