Gabon Military Leader Sworn in Amid Calls for Return to Constitutional Order

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BITAM, NORTHERN GABON — The leader of the coup that ousted Gabonese President Ali Bongo was sworn in Monday, amid international calls for a return to constitutional order. VOA visited Bitam, a town in northern Gabon near the border with Cameroon, to gauge people’s moods.Scores of people in Bitam watch Gabon’s national TV broadcasting the inauguration of General Brice Oligui Nguema as interim president.

Bitam is a commercial town in the north of Gabon, near the Cameroonian border.

During a ceremony attended by politicians, diplomats, clerics, the military and a huge crowd of civilians, the military leader pledged to respect what he called the charter of the transitional government. He gave no details.

Among the civilians watching the ceremony in Bitam was local official and opposition supporter Pierre Marie Tsanga. Tsanga said he was not surprised that opposition presidential candidate Albert Ondo Ossa did not attend the inauguration ceremony.

He says Gabon’s military should not think that the ongoing excitement is because civilians love General Brice Oligui Nguema, who has seized power. He says civilians are happy that Ali Bongo has been toppled, putting an end to his family’s close to 60-year grip on power.The 69-year-old Ondo also did not attend a meeting between the transitional president and opposition party leaders on Friday.

Ondo said he wants to discuss the future of Gabon with the general in the absence of other opposition members and close aides to the military leader.

Tsanga said the new leader should bring honor to himself and Gabon’s civilians by making sure the results of the August 26 elections are processed, made public and the winner inaugurated as president in the shortest possible period of time. Tsanga said this should not exceed six months.

Gabon’s main opposition group, Alternance 2023, asserts that the 69-year-old Ondo, a former government minister and university professor, is the rightful winner of the August 26 election.

On Friday, Alternance 2023 urged the international community to ask the junta to hand power to Ondo.

The African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States last week called for a rapid return to constitutional order.

Gabon was suspended from the African Union following the coup, which the U.N. and France have condemned. The AU said it will impose further sanctions on the coup leaders if they do not restore constitutional order.

Mba Dominique is an international affairs analyst at Omar Bongo University in Libreville, the capital of Gabon.

Dominique says calls by the AU, ECCAS and Gabon’s neighbors Cameroon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea, for Gabon’s military leaders to hand over to civilians are like cries in the wilderness. He says similar calls for the military juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea to relinquish power or be punished have had no effect.

The transitional leader takes over from Ali Bongo, who came to power in 2009 following the death of his father, Omar, who had led the central African country since 1967.

Gabon’s opposition says the family ruled with an iron fist and confiscated most of the oil-producing nation’s wealth.

The general said Monday that he will be transparent in his leadership and render an account of his stewardship.

Source : VOA