After losing his position as chief of staff of the Gabonese president and having seen several of his relatives arrested in connection with an anti-corruption operation, Brice Laccruche Alihanga was dismissed from the government on Monday.
A month earlier, Mr. Laccruche was considered the strong man of Gabonese politics. Chief of staff of President Ali Bongo Ondimba for two years, he had seen his role increase considerably since October 2018, when a stroke had weakened the president.
The opposition, but also some voices within the presidential majority, had then criticized the meteoric rise of Mr. Laccruche, as well as the placement of his relatives in key positions.
Monday evening, in a message broadcast on social networks, the Prime Minister, Julien Nkoghe Bekale, stressed the importance of surrounding himself with « men and women combining competence, experience, integrity and loyalty », before presenting a government, of which Mr. Laccruche, like many of his relatives, are now absent.
In addition to Mr. Lacruche, Tony Ondo Mba loses his position as Minister of Energy.
According to the pro-government newspaper L’Union, he had been employed by the Dupont Consulting Company, a private company run by Gregory Lacruche, brother of the former chief of staff, and targeted by the anti-corruption operation in Gabon in recent weeks.
Anticorruption or witch hunt
The operation, launched in mid-November, led to the arrest of other personalities, including Patrichi Tanasa, director-general manager of the state-owned Gabon Oil Company (GOC), also close to Mr. Laccruche and incarcerated since Thursday.
According to the Union, in two years, 85 billion CFA francs (129 million euros) would have « volatilized ».
Ike Ngouoni, spokesperson for the presidency, who is considered to be Mr. Laccruche’s right hand man, has been held in custody since Friday on charges unrelated to the GOC case against Dupont Consulting Company, says his lawyer, Carole Moussavou.
According to her, in the case of her client, « there is talk of complicity in embezzlement, but who is the main perpetrator? » « According to them, it would be Brice Laccruche, we are today at the beginning of the instruction, » she had said Sunday.
The spokesman for the presidency has not been replaced yet. But since the dismissal of Mr. Laccruche, the head of state Ali Bongo Ondimba has made many changes. He held at the end of November an extraordinary council of the judiciary, a first in ten years in power, where in the aftermath, the public prosecutor, Olivier N’Zahou, was dismissed.
Several security intelligence and security officers, close to Mr. Laccruche, have also been replaced.
Several lawyers of those arrested denounced a « political vendetta », pushing the Prime Minister to affirm Monday, November 25 on Twitter that the arrests in progress were « neither a witch hunt, nor a settlement of accounts ».
On November 7, prior to the first arrest, the chief of staff was appointed a simple minister, « in charge of monitoring the human investment strategy and sustainable development objectives », a position he will have kept for less than a month.