Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Yaounde, Cameroon - Gabon's prime minister says international sanctions and pressure for a return to constitutional order could be devastating to the country's economy. He also says the military junta needs time to carry out reforms and a national dialogue before a projected return to civilian rule.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Gabon's prime minister, Raymond Ndong Sima, said he wants to remind the world that by seizing power, the military saved the central African state from a civil war.

He said Gabon's political opposition was ready to take up arms and defend its victory after ousted president Ali Bongo Ondimba orchestrated alarming fraud and declared himself thewinner of the August 26 presidential election.

FILE - Ousted Gabon President Ali Bongo. FILE - Ousted Gabon President Ali Bongo.

Sima said the international community and friendly countries should be compassionate and stop all sanctions they have already imposed or are planning to impose to press for a return to constitutional order in Gabon. The prime minister said Gabon will have challenges developing its economy and fighting poverty if foreign pressure and sanctions are not rapidly removed.

Contested results indicate 69-year-old Albert Ondo Ossa, leader of Gabon's main opposition group Alternance 2023, won the August 26 election. But soldiers announced on national television on August 30 that they had seized power.

The designation of General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, head of the Republican Guard, as president, sparked an international outcry for a return to constitutional order.

This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the suspension of what he called certain foreign assistance programs to Gabon, pending a review of the circumstances that led to the ouster of President Bongo, who had ruled Gabon since 2009, when he succeeded his late father, Omar Bongo.

The State Department said the suspension would not affect U.S. government operations in the oil-producing central African nation but did not elaborate on what U.S.-funded programs would be affected or how much money would be placed on hold.

Sima, speaking in Gabon's capital, Libreville, said the country's military junta should be allowed to undertake initiatives to restore stability, carry out institutional and legislative reforms, fight corruption, ensure sustainable economic development, and conduct a national dialogue before organizing elections.

Sima did not say how much time the military junta needs to carry out the reforms and return power to civilians.

Telesphore Ondo is a public law lecturer at Omar Bongo University in Libreville.

Ondo tells Gabon state TV that the central African state's military leader needs time and resources to carry out consultations and organize a national dialogue that will reconcile civilians who are angry over the Bongo family's close-to-60-year rule that did not develop the oil producing nation. He says during the consultation and dialogue the military junta should make it known if it needs one, two or three years to return to civilian rule.

France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and Canada are among nations, along with the U.S., that have expressed concerns about the military junta taking over in Gabon and are asking for a return to normalcy. Similar requests have come from the United Nations, two central African regional blocs and the African Union.

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