General Brice Oligui Nguema was sworn in as Gabon’s interim president on Monday, one week after leading a military coup against the country’s long-ruling Bongo dynasty.
Oligui, head of the elite Republican Guard, ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba last Wednesday amid disputed election results. The Bongo family had governed Gabon for 55 consecutive years.
In his inauguration speech, Oligui pledged to uphold democracy and hold free and transparent elections after an unspecified transitional period. He also promised to release political prisoners.
The coup leaders previously dissolved government institutions, cancelled the election outcome, and temporarily closed borders. But Oligui faces pressure from abroad to swiftly restore civilian rule.
Images showed the general triumphantly lifted by troops following the coup announcement. He has since held extensive meetings with civic groups and foreign diplomats explaining his vision.
While some opposition factions urge Oligui to relinquish power immediately, many Gabonese welcomed the overthrow of the unpopular Bongo regime. Celebrations erupted in the capital Libreville.
The African Union and Western nations criticized the coup, albeit acknowledging concerns over electoral flaws. Military takeovers increasingly plague the continent, but each situation differs.
Bongo was seeking a disputed third term when deposed during the coup. The junta has confined him to house arrest, aiming to force his exit after 14 years as president.
Gabon has seen five coups or attempted coups since independence in 1960. But the latest resulted from deep frustrations with Bongo family rule rather than reflecting a wider African trend.