Gabonese military appear on television as they announce that they have seized power following President Ali Bongo Ondimba's re-election, in this screengrab obtained by Reuters on August 30, 2023. ― Gabon 1ere/Handout via Reuters

Gabon coup leader says will not rush to elections despite mounting pressure

LIBREVILLE, Sept 2 ― The leader of a coup that this week overthrew Gabon’s President Ali Bongo said yesterday that he wanted to avoid rushing into elections that “repeat past mistakes”, as pressure mounted on the junta to hand back power to a civilian government.

Military officers led by General Brice Oligui Nguema seized power on Wednesday, minutes after an announcement that Bongo had secured a third term in an election.

The officers placed Bongo under house arrest and installed Nguema as head of state, ending the Bongo family’s 56-year hold on power.

The coup ― West and Central Africa’s eighth in three years ― drew cheering crowds onto the streets of the capital Libreville, but condemnation from abroad and at home.

Nguema said in a televised address on Friday evening that the junta would proceed “quickly but surely” but that it would avoid elections that “repeat the same mistakes” by keeping the same people in power.

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

Central African regional bloc ECCAS has urged partners led by the United Nations and the African Union to support a rapid return to constitutional order, it said in a statement after an extraordinary meeting on Thursday. It said it would reconvene on Monday.

Gabon’s main opposition group, Alternance 2023, which says it is the rightful winner of Saturday’s election, urged the international community on Friday to encourage the junta to hand power back to civilians.

“We were happy that Ali Bongo was overthrown but … we hope that the international community will stand up in favour of the Republic and the democratic order in Gabon by asking the military to give back the power to the civilians,” Alexandra Pangha, spokesperson for Alternance 2023 leader Albert Ondo Ossa, told the BBC.

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