General Brice Oligui Nguema, Gabon’s new strongman since the overthrow of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, has threatened contractors involved in corruption, which is endemic in this country, and demanded that they show “patriotism” and “commitment” to the “development of the country”.
Recent audits have shown that “companies have overcharged and the services will revisit these investigations so that this overcharging reverts to the State”, he declared in a firm tone and with a dark look in his eyes before more than 200 Gabonese business leaders “summoned” to the Presidency of the Republic on Thursday, in a speech broadcast in its entirety on Friday on the state television channels.
At the same time, the state television channels were showing a loop of images showing one of the sons of the deposed president, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and other former young senior members of the presidential cabinet arrested on Thursday, the day of the putsch, in front of trunks, suitcases and bags filled with billions of CFA francs that had apparently been seized from their homes.
Mr Bongo Valentin and the six former senior officials from the office of the President and his all-powerful Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) who were arrested are accused by the military of “massive misappropriation of public funds”, “falsification of the signature of the President of the Republic” and “high treason”.
Mr Bongo’s opposition and civil society regularly accused contractors close to the government of practising massive “overbilling” in their contracts with the state, in return for kickbacks paid to senior government officials.
General Oligui, head of the presidential guard, who is due to be sworn in as “president of the transition” on Monday, thundered: “It is difficult to perceive, at this stage, your commitment and your patriotism when it comes to the development expected (by the country) by our compatriots”.”I am speaking the truth to you, which should enable each and every one of you to truly question yourselves”, he said, adding: “This is a situation that, for me, cannot continue, and I will not tolerate it”.
“I encourage you to change your paradigm and to ensure that, in the face of the power that I now embody, I am faced with responsible companies, not companies that are created according to the interests and situations of the moment, with the plan of over-invoicing that we all know about and enrichment as has been noted”, he added.