Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema, commander-in-chief of the Gabonese Republican Guard, the country’s most powerful security unit, has emerged as leader of the military junta that ousted president Ali Bongo Ondimba on August 30, 2023.
The swift shift from electoral results to military intervention saw Nguema, a cousin of Bongo, leading the charge in an overturn of the election outcome, according to a report filed by aljazeera
The report details that Nguema’s influence and role in Gabon’s affairs have been marked by an intriguing blend of military prowess, diplomatic endeavors, and entrepreneurial undertakings.
Raised in a military household, Nguema’s journey led him to the Royal Military Academy of Meknes in Morocco, where he honed his skills and eventually served as an “aide-de-camp” to a commander within the Republican Guard during the tenure of former President Omar Bongo.
With the elder Bongo’s passing in 2009 and the subsequent rise of Ali Bongo to power, Nguema’s trajectory took him on diplomatic missions to Morocco and Senegal before he assumed leadership of the Republican Guard a decade later.
The Republican Guard, recognizable by their distinctive green berets, holds the crucial responsibility of ensuring presidential security. Nguema is said to have composed a song expressing his commitment to defending the president with “honor and loyalty.”
He was reportedly seen as an entrepreneur within Gabonese circles and was even believed to be a millionaire.
An investigation by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in 2020 shed light on Nguema’s real estate investments in the United States, where he had purchased properties with substantial amounts of cash.
The report further explained that Nguema’s recent statements to the media shed light on his motivations for participating in the coup attempt. In an interview with French daily Le Monde, he is alleged to have expressed concern over Ali Bongo’s health following a stroke in 2018, suggesting it was a contributing factor to the political discontent. He accused the government of violating the constitution and criticized the election process.
Nguema proposed a transition of power, suggesting that Bongo could retire and enjoy his rights as a Gabonese citizen.
Currently, President Ali Bongo is under house arrest following the annulled election where he secured over 64% of the vote.