After deposing Gabonese President Ali Bongo, Gen Brice Oligui Nguema was carried via the streets by his triumphant troops, who chanted “Oligui, président! Oligui, président!”.
The 48-year-old basic definitely seems to to be a person of the individuals as he is held aloft by his troopers, however to many, he is an surprising chief.
Simply 5 years in the past, he barely existed in Gabon’s public consciousness, having spent 10 years exterior the nation after being dismissed from the inside circle of the Bongo household, who till Wednesday had dominated Gabon for nearly 56 years.
On Gen Nguema’s return, he quietly rose to the military’s highest place. Right here he devoted his days to sustaining President Ali Bongo’s regime.
Gabon’s new strongman was born in Gabon’s province of Haut-Ogooué. The world is a stronghold of the Bongo household and a few even say that Gen Nguema is Ali Bongo’s cousin.
Gen Nguema took after his father and pursued a profession within the army. At a really younger age, he joined Gabon’s highly effective Republican Guard unit, having first educated at Morocco’s prestigious Meknes Royal Navy Academy.
The formidable younger officer rapidly attracted the eye of the army high brass and have become an assistant to then-president Omar Bongo, who was Ali Bongo’s father.
It’s mentioned Gen Nguema was extraordinarily near Omar Bongo – he served the autocrat till his loss of life in 2009.
“He is somebody who wasn’t anticipated [to lead Gabon] presently,” Edwige Sorgho-Depagne, an analyst of African politics who works for Amber Advisers, instructed BBC’s Newsday programme.
“Within the 2000s, he was removed from the nation for a while… he was virtually forgotten.”
When Ali Bongo took over from his father in 2009, Gen Nguema was dismissed from his job. He started what native media portrays as an “exile”, serving virtually 10 years as an attaché to the Gabonese embassies in Morocco and Senegal.
The industrious army man reappeared on Gabon’s political scene in 2018, when he changed the president’s step-brother because the Republican Guard’s intelligence chief.
After simply six months within the job, Gen Nguema was promoted to go of the Republican Guard. He initiated reforms to make the unit more practical in its elementary mission: sustaining the regime.
A former shut collaborator instructed French information company AFP that the overall was “a person of consensus, who by no means raises his voice, who listens to everybody and systematically seeks compromise”.
Shortly after he took on the brand new position, Gen Nguema launched the “clear arms” operation, which got down to deal with alleged state-led embezzlement.
Nevertheless, Gen Nguema was himself accused of hoarding public cash.
In a 2020 investigation, US anti-corruption organisation OCCRP alleged that Gen Nguema and the Bongo household had bought costly property in the US with stashes of money. The final was mentioned to have spent $1m (£790,000) on three properties.
Nguema’s response to the report? “I feel whether or not in France or in the US, a personal life is a personal life that [should be] revered”.
Barely eight months in the past, Gabon’s national news agency reported that Gen Nguema publicly reaffirmed his loyalty to Ali Bongo’s presidency, which had stretched for 14 years.
However on Wednesday, simply hours after Ali Bongo was introduced because the winner of a disputed presidential election, the army introduced it was annulling the outcomes and taking on.
With the president beneath home arrest, Normal Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema was named Gabon’s transitional chief.
The final instructed France’s Le Monde newspaper that Gabonese individuals had had sufficient of Ali Bongo’s rule, and that the president shouldn’t have run for a 3rd time period.
“Everybody talks about this however nobody takes duty,” he mentioned. “So the military determined to show the web page.”
The UN, the African Union and France have condemned the coup – the eighth to happen in West and Central Africa since 2020.
However Gen Nguema appears to have received over massive components of the general public. He is additionally succeeded in uniting the military, which is dividing alongside ethnic strains.
As a person who has been accused of corruption and has spent most his profession within the Bongo’s inside circle, he might not become the recent begin the Gabonese individuals hope he will probably be.
He’ll, nevertheless, be etched within the nation’s historical past books as the person that “turned the web page”.
Further reporting by Alison Onyango