Gabon’s interim prime minister: Two-year transition to free elections ‘reasonable’

The prime minister of Gabon’s transitional government, which came to power following last month’s coup, says a two-year period before holding the free elections promised by the country’s new military rulers is “reasonable.”

“It’s good to set off with a reasonable objective by saying we have the desire to see the process come to an end in 24 months, so we can go back to elections,” Raymond Ndong Sima said on Sunday, adding, “That period could end up being slightly longer or shorter.”

Ndong Sima was appointed last week as head of the transitional government by General Brice Oligui Nguema, who led the August 30 coup d’etat against deposed president, Ali Bongo Ondimba.

He served as Bongo’s prime minister from 2012 to 2014, then resigned and ran against him for president in 2016, and again as part of an opposition coalition this year.

Under the transitional charter, no member of the interim government will be able to stand in the next presidential election. However, there is apparently nothing to prevent the coup leader, who was sworn in as the interim president on September 4, from taking part in that election. He has promised a new constitution to, be adopted by referendum, and a new electoral code.

“The principle announced by the military is that there is no longer either an opposition nor a majority, so we are taking people in all political families,” the interim prime minister said elsewhere in his Sunday remarks.

Those drawing up the new texts for the country “will discuss this aspect of things, that is to say, the duration (of the transition) and who is really allowed to stand (for election) and not to stand,” he said, adding, “It would not, however, be good for the military to stand, so they can be impartial and objective arbiters of the elections.”

The military takeover in Gabon was the eighth in three years in West and Central Africa, and followed similar coups in Guinea, Chad and Niger, plus two each in Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020.

Gabon’s deposed president was elected in 2009, taking over from his father Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for 42 years. The family’s rule had created widespread discontent, with opponents saying the Bongos did little to share the country’s oil and mining wealth with its 2.3 million people.

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) suspended Gabon’s membership earlier this month.

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