Former Gabon First Lady Taken Into Custody in Gabon

Her attorney, Francois Zimeray, denounced the arrest as an “arbitrary, illegal procedure” and said the former first lady was being held on suspicion of embezzling public monies.

Marches have been held in several towns in a show of solidarity with the junta. Gabon’s opposition and civil society groups that support the military junta have said members of Bongo’s family are suspected of having real estate empires and stashing huge amounts of money in foreign banks – funds which be used to reduce the gap between the majority poor and the few rich.

Since the August 30 coup that ended the 55-year Bongo dynasty rule, Sylvia Bongo was placed under house arrest in Libreville, the nation’s capital. The coup leaders accuse the former first lady and her son, Nourredin Bongo, of manipulating Gabon’s deposed president Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has not fully recovered from a serious stroke in 2018. The former first lady was also believed to be preparing her son, Noureddine Bongo, to succeed his father. In December 2019, Noureddin Bongo was appointed the general coordinator of presidential affairs by his father.

On August 30, moments after being declared the winner of a presidential election, military leaders overthrew Bongo, 64, who had ruled the oil-rich central African nation since 2009. The opposition and the leaders of the military coup d’état, who also charged his rule with  widespread corruption and poor leadership, denounced the outcome as a fraud. A son of Bongo, five senior cabinet members, and his wife Sylvia Bongo were all detained by soldiers on the day of the coup.

Following the military takeover on August 30, Gabon’s coup leaders announced the appointment of a key opponent of overthrown president Ali Bongo Ondimba as interim prime minister. Raymond Ndong Sima, 68, presided over Bongo’s government as prime minister from 2012 until 2014. He then turned into an opponent and ran against him in 2016 and 2023. He fared poorly at the latest polls.

Bongo is free to travel abroad, the military junta said on September 6. Meanwhile, the Economic Community of Central African States (Eccas) suspended Gabon’s membership during an extraordinary summit in Djibloho, Equatorial Guinea, and condemned the use of force to resolve political conflicts.

The military junta in Gabon led by General Brice Oligui Nguema set a two-year transition period to democracy and military cooperation with France has resumed. Oligui has appointed former opposition leaders and key figures from the ousted regime to both houses of parliament.

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