Research Briefing | Sep 5, 2023

Gabon: The end of the Bongo era

The week before the publication of this Political Focus, Gabon underwent tremendous political change: in a coup d’état on August 30, soldiers overthrew President Ali Bongo after he had claimed an obviously fraudulent win in the presidential election held four days before. Mr Bongo had been in power since 2009. Before him, his father, Omar Bongo, ruled from 1967 to 2009 at the head of a hugely corrupt government. The coup leader and now interim president, General Brice Oligui Nguema, hinted that the coup had been planned before the election. The end of the Bongo era has been greeted with joy and optimism in Gabon and abroad.

What you will learn:

  • The early signs are that Gen Oligui will keep the system largely unchanged. His swearing-in on September 4 demonstrated his intent to keep as many people as possible on his team, excluding Ali Bongo, the latter’s son, and a small number of their most faithful lieutenants. He spent his first days in power reaching out to domestic and foreign partners to reassure them that the transition will not be disruptive. It also seems that economic sanctions will be light.
  • Gen Oligui has a transition charter ready. He announced that the transition will involve a new constitution, new electoral legislation, a new census of the voting population, and finally “free, transparent, and credible” elections to hand power to a civilian government. He has not announced a timeline.
  • Our next Political Focus is scheduled for publication in February, by which time we will have a much better idea of the shape of the transition under Gen Oligui. At this stage we consider the developments risk-positive, and thanks to an improvement in our analyst’s view on Gabon, our overall risk assessment changes to low tending moderate with the trend neutral.
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