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‘Free’ Elections After Transition – Gabon New Leader Vows

General Brice Oligui Nguema, who led a coup last week that toppled Gabon’s 55-year-old ruling dynasty, took the oath of office as interim president on Monday, promising “free, transparent and credible elections” to restore civilian rule but without giving a timeframe.

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He also vowed to amnesty political prisoners, in a speech in which he insisted the coup had saved Gabon from bloodshed after elections that were “obviously loaded.”

Oligui, head of the elite Republican Guard, last Wednesday led officers to detain President Ali Bongo Ondimba, scion of a family that had ruled the oil-rich central African nation since 1967.

The ousting came just moments after Bongo, 64, was proclaimed victor in presidential elections — a result branded a fraud by the opposition.

In a speech after taking the oath of office, Oligui said the promised elections would be the stepping stone to “handing power back to the civilians,” although he did not specify any date.

He said he was seeking the participation of all of Gabon’s “core groups” to draft a new constitution, which “will be adopted by referendum.”

Oligui, 48, wearing the red ceremonial costume of the Republican Guard, also said he would instruct “the future government… to consider ways of amnestying prisoners of conscience” and “facilitating the return of all exiles” from abroad.

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