A delay of two years before the free elections promised in Gabon by the soldiers who overthrew President Ali Bongo is a "reasonable objective", the transitional Prime Minister told AFP on Sunday.
On August 30, the army overthrew Ali Bongo Ondimba, in power for 14 years, moments after he was proclaimed re-elected in an election deemed fraudulent by the military and the opposition.
General Brice Oligui Nguema, proclaimed President of the transition, immediately promised to return power to civilians through elections at the end of a period whose duration he did not announce.
"It is good to start with a reasonable objective by saying: we want to see the process completed in 24 months so that we can return to elections", declared Raymond Ndong Sima, civilian appointed Prime Minister last Thursday by the military, adding that this period could be "slightly higher or lower".
Mr. Ndong Sima, 68, was appointed head of the transitional government by General Oligui Nguema. He was previously one of the tenors of the opposition to Mr. Bongo.
The coup d'état of August 30 took place in a few moments and without bloodshed, all the commanders of the army and police having gathered behind General Oligui.
The military coup leaders, who enjoy the support of a very large majority of the population and the opposition, claim to have acted to "preserve human lives" after a fraudulent election and to put an end to "bad governance" and " corruption" of which they accuse the Bongo clan.
On Saturday, Mr. Ndong Sima announced the composition of his government appointed by General Oligui, which includes former ministers of the deposed president, members of the former opposition and figures from civil society previously hostile to Mr. Bongo and his family, who ruled the country for more than 55 years.
The Transition Charter put in place by the military prohibits members of the provisional government from running in the next elections, including Mr. Ndong Sima, but does not explicitly exclude that General Oligui could then run for the presidency.
The latter also promised a new Constitution which will be adopted by referendum and a new electoral code, with the participation of "all the living forces of the Nation".
“The principle announced” by the military “is that there is no longer any opposition or majority, so we are taking people from all political families,” commented the Prime Minister.
"People who will (...) prepare different texts, will discuss this aspect of things, that is to say the duration (of the transition), and who is really entitled to show up and not show up," Ndong Sima explained.
"It would not be good for the military to show up, so that they are impartial and objective arbiters of the election," he said, however.
The designation by General Oligui Nguema, to the Presidency of the transition as within the committee of soldiers which forms his close team, of officers in charge of most of the same sectors as the ministers of Mr. Ndong Sima raises the question of the autonomy and room for maneuver for its civil government.
“It is not new to have, alongside the president (of Gabon), heads of departments who provide the interface between the president and the ministerial departments,” qualified Mr. Ndong Sima.
"Will I have my hands free? That, I cannot know at the moment, we will see" and "it will depend on what the military want to obtain", he estimated, adding: "If they want to obtain a satisfactory result, it will be in their interest to give a free hand to those they have called."
Especially since "it's them (...) who will take stock of what we're going to do", so "it's in the interest of the military to give those they call the opportunity to work and to achieve results," he said.
Mr. Ndong Sima, who told AFP on September 4 that he was "interested" in the next elections, assured that "the situation in the country requires everyone to make a small compromise on their own position."
Even if it means giving up on the presidential election?
"You know I used to say the future belongs to God," he replied.
10/09/2023 21:59:56 - Libreville (AFP) - ©2023 AFP