The leader of Gabon’s military junta, Gen. Brice Nguema, was sworn in as interim president by the country’s constitutional court during a televised ceremony Monday.
Last week, Nguema led a coup that ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, a military takeover that appears to have truncated the Bongo family’s decades-long dominance over Gabonese politics.
Bongo, 64, succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who ruled the Central African nation with an iron fist for more than four decades before his death in 2009.
Ahead of last Wednesday’s coup, Bongo, who has been in power for nearly 14 years, was declared winner of a disputed presidential election that was marred by voting delays and internet cuts. The Bongo administration had also obstructed coverage of the vote by foreign press.
The ousted leader was placed on house arrest by the junta, which also voided the election results and shut the country’s borders, triggering global condemnation of the coup.
Celebrations also broke out across the tiny nation with thousands of supporters expressing solidarity with the military.
Nguema, a former bodyguard for Omar Bongo, was swiftly installed as a transitional leader.
He was inaugurated as interim president on Monday amid a military parade and cheers from his civilian supporters.
It’s not immediately known how long Nguema will hold on to power. He earlier said the country will not rush into a new election to avoid a “repeat of past mistakes,” Reuters reported.
A platform of opposition parties in the country has urged the junta to resume the electoral process and conclude the vote count to pave the way to victory for opposition leader Albert Ondo Ossa, who was a runner up in the annulled election.
There have been nine coups in the past three years in former French colonies – Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Tunisia and now Gabon – that have undermined democratic progress in recent years.
Many Gabonese view Bongo’s ouster as a major victory for citizens in the oil-rich but impoverished state.