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Gabon coup: New PM tells BBC country should hold elections within two years

  • Published
    2 days ago

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Gabon’s new prime minister has told the BBC that the country should hold fresh elections within the next two years, following a military coup last week.

The junta which overthrew President Ali Bongo has promised a free and fair election, but not set out a timetable.

However, Raymond Ndong Sima told the BBC’s Newshour programme: “I have said in a document that I published that that should be done within two years.”

He said a timetable would be decided in the coming days.

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Mr Sima was installed as interim prime minister on Thursday, after Gen Brice Oligui Nguema, who led the coup against Mr Bongo, became Gabon’s transitional president.

Mr Bongo had led the oil-rich West African country since 2009 when he succeeded his father who had been in power for more than 40 years. The family had strong links to France, the former colonial power in Gabon.

The coup has been condemned in Africa and the West, including France.

Civilians appear to have welcomed the change, with cheers greeting Gen Nguema’s inauguration on Monday.

However, some have questioned whether his rule will be a break from the past, having spent most of his career in Mr Bongo’s inner circle.

Asked what had changed since the coup, Mr Sima told the BBC’s Newshour: “What has changed is that the military has refused to beat up the population and we have a promise that we will look into the institutions that [will] come back to the democratic rule.

“In politics you would rather take a little bit of what you can get.”

Mr Sima added that he would take time for Gabon to transition away from the previous regime.

“You cannot end the political influence of a family that has ruled for over 50 years in one day because there are indirect influence and direct influence,” he said.

The new prime minister – who once served under Mr Bongo before standing against him in two elections – ruled out bringing a legal case against Gabon’s former president.

There have been calls for Mr Bongo to face trial on allegations of corruption.

But Mr Sima said: “I think what is interesting for people is not to open the case. I don’t think it would be viable to open a case at this moment.”

France conducted a seven-year investigation into the Bongo family, which revealed assets including numerous properties and nine luxury cars before it was dropped in 2017. The family strongly denied all the allegations.

Mr Bongo was released from house arrest on Thursday and the junta has said he is free to leave the country to seek medical check-ups.

In the past, he has received treatment in Morocco after suffering a stroke.

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