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Gabon Coup: Meet Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, the Force Behind Ali Bongo Ondimba’s Downfall

Colonel Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, The head of the Republican Guards, was recently selected by his peers to lead the transition in Gabon after the military officers took over power on Wednesday morning.

Before the announcement, Nguema’s name emerged as a central figure in the unfolding story. He has also been described as the driving force behind the downfall of President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

As Nguema’s role in the Gabon coup continues to capture the world’s attention, it becomes necessary to delve into his military background, reforms and relationship with the ousted Bongo.  

He was a PA to Ali’s father, Omar

Brice Clotaire Oligui graduated from the Meknes Royal Military Academy in Morocco. After his stay at the academy, Clotaire served as an aide-de-camp to President Omar Bongo. 

Omar, father of the ousted president was the second president of Gabon. He served for almost 42 years from 1967 until his death in 2009. Reports say he was one of the wealthiest heads of state in the world due to oil revenue and alleged corruption. 

For context, an aide-de-camp is a French expression used to identify a personal assistant or secretary to a person of high rank, usually a senior military, police or government officer.

Cloitare worked with Omar Bongo till the time of his death. He was later transferred to the Gabonese embassies in Morocco and Senegal. 

Nguema significantly reformed SIS under Ali Bongo

Nguema was recalled to replace Colonel Frederic Bongo as the head of the intelligence service of the Republican Guard: the Directorate General of Special Services (DGSS) in October 2018. 

Two years later, Nguema replaced General Grégoire Kouna, a cousin of the ousted president as head of the Gabonese Republican Guard. He introduced reforms to the the Special Interventions Section (SIS) a special unit placed under the direct authority of the President.

One such reform was the increment in the number of military elements. Reports say Nguema moved the number of elements from 30 to over 300. He also composed a song with a remarkable line “I would defend my president with honour and loyalty”

Brice Clotaire restarted Operation Mamba in 2021

Reports say when Clotaire took over the Republican Guard, he restarted Operation Mamba. Operation Mamba is an anti-corruption campaign launched in 2017 by President Ali Bongo.

Following its revival, the anti-graft agency made a series of top-level arrests in the central African country. The arrest followed accusations that millions of euros disappeared from state coffers. 

He expanded Bongo’s overseas businesses

As one who has been close to the Bongo family for a while, Nguema reportedly contributed to the expansion of Bongo’s overseas businesses. 

Reports say Omar Bongo was investigated for using millions of pounds of embezzled public funds to acquire lavish properties in France. 

Omar reportedly bought 33 luxury properties in France. A mansion worth £15m located in one of Paris’s most elegant districts is one of such [properties.

Nguema’s investment in real estate

A 2020 Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) revealed that Brice Oligui owns several properties in the United States.

The report reads in part, “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.” 

When Brice Oligui was asked about these properties, he said “I think whether in France or in the United States, a private life is a private life that [should be] respected.”

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