Gabon’s head of state Ali Bongo Ondimba has not named his son Noureddin as head of the presidential services to make him his « foal » for the presidential election of 2023 but for his « skills » and « absolute trust » he has in him, said Friday his spokesman.
On Thursday evening, Bongo, who has been in power for 10 years, has appointed his son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, 27, the general coordinator of Presidential Affairs, to « assist the President of the Republic in the conduct of all State affairs « .
« A willingness to present a foal for 2023, for future presidential elections? », Responded the spokesman of the president, Jessye Ella Ekogha, to a journalist who questioned him at a press conference. « Noureddin Bongo Valentin is there to accompany the head of state in his policy, we must avoid any fiction, » he retorted by sweeping this accusation relayed by the opposition press.
Ali Bongo, weakened for a year after a stroke, had himself been promoted to prominence in the 2000s, then elected in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo , then head of state for 42 years.
« Why has Mr. Noureddin Bongo Valentin been appointed to such a position? » Asked the spokesman for the presidency. « One, he has all the required skills (…) » as well as « the experience » and « second reason, he has the absolute confidence of the Head of State who is free to choose, without exception, the people with which he wishes to work « .
Noureddin Bongo’s appointment on Thursday comes one month after the start of a massive anti-corruption operation targeting former Bongo’s all-powerful cabinet director, Brice Laccruche Alihanga, who was fired in early November. Operation Scorpion led to the arrest of some 20 prominent figures, including three ministers, and the imprisonment of 13 of them, suspected of embezzlement of public funds among others.
Mr. Laccruche, who was arrested Tuesday, is still in custody.
He was appointed more than two years ago to head his cabinet by Mr. Bongo, but while the head of state was recovering from the stroke that struck him in October 2018, Mr. Laccruche was become in recent months the real strongman of Gabon. He had appointed many of his close ministers or heads of public institutions or companies, or security services. All or almost all have been sacked for a month, and are behind bars for some.
« All these people benefit from the presumption of innocence. However, the suspicions that obviously weigh on them seem to be particularly serious, « said Ella Ekogha, quoting Ali Bongo in his speech of June 8: » It is crucial for us to end once and for all with corruption which gangrene our institutions « .
« The priority » of the Head of State « is to ensure that public action effectively addresses the concerns of the highest priority in daily life of Gabonese, » said the spokesman.