The deposed president appears as the unifying element of the dynamics of the putschists.
In his swearing-in speech at the head of the country, on September 4, five days after his coup d’état, the transitional president, General Brice Oligui Nguema, drew up a non-exhaustive list of promises which should relaunch the country and inexorably install a real democracy in this small Central African country with immense wealth.
Among these promises, one caused his entire audience to stand up and applaud an entire people. The general-head of state thus promised to put an end to what many Gabonese call Ali Bongo’s “foreign legion”.
The new man thus announced his intention to “revise the conditions for granting Gabonese nationality”. “I am committed to ensuring that the centuries-old relations between the Gabonese and our foreign brothers are always relations of great friendship, tolerance and harmony, (but) politics and administration in a country are areas of national sovereignty, to say so is in no way xenophobia.”
No need to be more explicit. The Gabonese have understood that the new head of state, also emerging from the bowels of the power of the Bongo clan, was targeting the countless advisers, directors and other high-ranking people who came from abroad under the golds of the Bongo presidency. The members of this “foreign legion” have constituted over the years a true parallel power in Gabon. “A phenomenon which already existed under Omar Bongo but which has greatly increased under Ali Bongo and even more so since he lost the reins of power following his stroke in 2019. explains a French specialist in the region.
Marc Ona, a personality of civil society, defender of the environment and force in the fight against corruption, had pointed out, from the day of the coup d’état, “the ability of President Ali Bongo to manage the country by proxy and to unload on others, especially since his stroke”.
These “foreigners” were among the first people arrested. The new power used social networks to broadcast videos that fueled anger and established the good reception of the putschists in a population tired of these excesses.
On some of these images, we discover Mohamed Aliou Oceni, former director of the deputy cabinet of Noureddin Bongo Valentin, the son of the deposed president, bombarded “coordinator of presidential affairs” after his father’s stroke. In the apartment of this “Beninese of origin”, the investigators will discover an apartment of extravagant luxury but also several safes overflowing with cash. Similar scenes will be filmed at the home of a Korean in charge of affairs in the office of the First Lady, Sylvia Bongo Ondimba, herself Franco-Gabonese.
“The new president, who frequented the mysteries of power for years, knew full well where to send the cameras. He knew that these images would have an impact on the population. That they would end up convincing of the benefit of his coup d’etat”explains a diplomat from the region who adds: “The choice of Raymond Ndong Sima, a virulent opponent of Ali Bongo as Prime Minister, also participates in this bias to charge the fallen president and his first belt with all evils. It’s a selective approach. Certain sections of the clan are spared. But everyone is happy because the worst are punished. Now, far from the cameras and the big video effects, it is to be hoped that the new power will have a real answer to revive the country. Otherwise, you will quickly disappoint,” concludes the diplomat who does not hide a certain skepticism.