Who is General Brice Oligui Nguema, Gabon’s New Leader?

General Brice Oligui Nguema has risen to power in Gabon after deposing President Ali Bongo. Despite being relatively unknown just five years ago, Gen Nguema has quickly become a dominant figure in the country. Born in Gabon’s province of Haut-Ogooué, he followed in his father’s footsteps and pursued a military career. After training at Morocco’s military academy, he joined Gabon’s Republican Guard unit and eventually became an assistant to then-president Omar Bongo. However, when Ali Bongo took over in 2009, Gen Nguema was dismissed and spent nearly 10 years serving as an attaché to Gabonese embassies in Morocco and Senegal. In 2018, he reappeared on the political scene, replacing the president’s step-brother as the intelligence chief of the Republican Guard. Gen Nguema initiated reforms and launched the “clean hands” operation, which aimed to combat state-led embezzlement. However, he himself was accused of hoarding public money, purchasing expensive properties in the United States. Despite these allegations, he gained popular support and successfully united the army. While celebrated by some, others question whether Gen Nguema can truly bring about the fresh start the Gabonese people desire, considering his alleged corruption and close ties to the Bongo family.