General Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in as Gabon’s transitional president on Monday, pledging to “preserve the gains of democracy and fundamental freedoms” following last week’s coup.
The Constitutional Court judge administered the oath at the Presidential Palace in the capital Libreville.
Nguema, the head of the Committee for the Transition and the Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), a formation formed after the coup, was sworn in on a “transition charter.”
He vowed to uphold and enforce the transition charter and the law, and to carry out his duties in the “best interests of the people” while making every effort to “realize national unity.”
“I swear before God and the Gabonese people to faithfully preserve the Republican regime, to respect and enforce the charter of the transition and the law”, he said.
He said the Gabonese “simply asked that their rights be guaranteed”, and that the army had a choice either to kill the Gabonese who had demonstrated or carry out a coup.
The Gabonese Army chose to be “on the side of the people and freedom” rather than the “oppressor” like General De Gaulle of France, Nguema said in his inaugural speech.
He vowed that a new country’s constitution would be adopted through a referendum.
However, he did not specify how long the transition will last or when this transitional government will hold fair and free elections in the country.
He recognized the presence of some personalities from the former ruling majority and the opposition at the ceremony.
The coup leaders on Saturday announced the immediate reopening of the country’s borders, which had been closed following this week’s coup that deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
On Friday, Nguema met with diplomats and civil society representatives to brief them on ongoing reforms aimed at building a “strong democracy and improving governance in order to better the lives of Gabonese.”
Nguema, the son of a military officer, attended the Royal Military Academy of Meknes in Morocco.
He was one of Bongo’s aides-de-camp before being promoted to commander in former President Omar Bongo’s Republican Guard in 2009.
After the deposed president took power in 2009, he was posted on diplomatic missions to Morocco and Senegal. He returned a decade later to command the guard.
Last Wednesday, a group of senior Gabonese Army officers appeared on national television and declared that they had seized power.
The move came shortly after the Gabonese Election Center confirmed that incumbent President Ali Bongo officially won a third term as president with 64.27% of the vote.
Bongo had been in power for more than a decade.
Gabon is the latest African country to witness a recent military coup after Niger last month and Mali in 2022.