21 facts to know about General Nguema, Gabon's new military leader



General Brice Oligui Nguema, who will be sworn in on Monday as Gabon’s military ruler has been a regular face in the country’s corridor of power and smeared by financial and corruption scandals.


Here are 20 facts you need to know about him, pieced together from various reports about him:


1. His full name is Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema.


2.He was educated at Omar Bongo University, founded by former president Omar Bongo.


3. He is said to be a distant cousin of deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba


4.Nguema was born 48 years ago to a Teke mother and a Fang father, Gabon’s main ethnic group, but he mostly grew up with his mother in Haut-Ogooue province, a Bongo stronghold.


5. He is bald and athletically built.


6.He was trained at good military schools including Royal Military Academy of Meknes, in Morocco


7. He served as an aide-de-camp (ADC) from 2005 till 2009 to Ali Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo, who ruled Gabon with an iron fist for almost 42 years until his death in 2009.


8. After Omar Bongo’s death, Nguema was sidelined after Ali Bongo was elected to succeed his father.


9. He was accused of participating in an attempted coup fomented by another general in 2009. In the trial held in Libreville, Nguema’s involvement could not be established.


Nonetheless, he was removed from his post.


10. He thus began a 10-year stint as a military attaché at Gabon’s embassies in Morocco and Senegal.


11. He returned to prominence in 2018, after Ali Bongo had his stroke, as the Republican guard’s intelligence chief at the Directorate General of Special Services (DGSS).


He replaced Ali Bongo’s half-brother Frederic Bongo. Nguema was a colonel then. But six months after, he was promoted to general.


12. He has been the head of the Republican Guard, the country’s most powerful army unit, since 2019.


13. As its head, Nguema tried to fortify Gabon’s internal security systems with reforms that were seen as elongating Bongo’s stay in power. According to local media reports, Nguema also composed a song that included the line: “I would defend my president with honour and loyalty”.


14.Barely eight months ago, Gabon’s national news agency reported that Gen Nguema publicly reaffirmed his loyalty to Ali Bongo’s presidency, which had stretched for 14 years.


15. But on Wednesday he betrayed Bongo when he needed him most, putting him under house arrest as soldiers annulled his rigged third term election and took over government, to ensure peace in the country.


In an interview with French daily Le Monde on Wednesday, Nguema said.


“Beyond this discontent, there is the illness of the Head of State [Ali Bongo suffered a stroke in October 2018 which left him weakened]. Everyone talks about it, but no one takes responsibility. He did not have the right to serve a third term, the Constitution was violated, the method of election itself was not good. So the army decided to turn the page, to take its responsibilities,” Nguema said.


16. As the head of the Republican Guard, he pushed Ali Bongo to improve his men’s working and living conditions by upgrading their facilities, funding schools for soldiers’ children and refurbishing accommodations.


17. A source who spoke to France 24 said the welfare measures earned him respect and sympathy from his colleagues.


“He isn’t very talkative, but very appreciated by his men. He’s a Julius Caesar, and Julius Caesar cares for the comfort of his legionaries,” the source said, referring to the Roman general.


18. He is “a man of consensus, who never raises his voice, who listens to everyone and systematically seeks compromise”.


19. He is known to be a multi-millionaire, allegedly involved in an embezzlement affair and having links to the drug circles of the South American-Ivorian cartels


20. According to a 2020 investigation by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) on the Bongo family’s assets in the United States, Nguema invested in real estate, paying in cash.


“He bought three properties in middle- and working-class neighbourhoods in the Maryland suburbs of Hyattsville and Silver Spring, just outside the capital, in 2015 and 2018. The homes were purchased with a total of over $1 million in cash,” the OCCRP report said.


But Nguema described the investment as private matters. “I think whether in France or in the United States, a private life is a private life that [should be] respected”.


He was not questioned by Ali Bongo, who he toppled on Wednesday.


21. As consensus man , Nguema included officers from all army branches in the junta’s Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, which has been established to chart a programme that will lead Gabon into a new democracy.

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