On Tuesday, September 5th, the President of the Committee for Transition and Restoration (CTRI) of Gabon, General Brice Oligui Nguema, announced the release of political prisoners from Ali Bongo’s government, which was overthrown on August 30th by a military coup. “Amnesty for political prisoners,” declared the general, fulfilling the promise he made the day before when he was officially inaugurated as the transitional president. Nguema also pledged to facilitate the return of exiles who are currently abroad.
Among those benefiting from Nguema’s measure are Jean-Remy Yama, the leader of the Coalition of Gabonese Public Service Unions, who was detained in February 2022; Renaud Allogho Akoue, former Director-General of the National Social Security and Health Fund of Gabon, who was arrested in December 2019; and Léandre Nzué, former Mayor of Gabon’s capital, Libreville.
In a statement to the press shortly after his release, Jean-Remy Yama, visibly emotional, expressed his gratitude:
“We thank those who are working for this action, starting first and foremost with Almighty God. He is the Lord of times and circumstances. I also want to thank the instrument, that is, the person God used. That is, the president who was inaugurated yesterday because he turned his word into action. I thank the new authorities who have given us hope, and I say that this hope must continue.”
Yama was accused of embezzlement and breach of trust. However, Gabonese unions claim that the charges are fraudulent and that Yama’s arrest was motivated by his criticisms of the Bongo regime.
“To be accused of embezzlement of public funds, one must have managed public funds and held public office,” protested the union leader. “But that was not my case. And every time, my lawyers reminded the courts that we were in a form of illegality and that Article 68, paragraph three, of the Constitution was not applied. What does this article say? That the judge, in the exercise of his functions, is subject only to the authority of the law.”
Jean-Remy Yama remained in detention for 18 months. At the end of his statement to the press, he expressed his support for the military junta that ousted Ali Bongo: “I am a fighter for freedom, for justice, and today the regime in place defends justice, defends the return of certain values.”
Léandre Nzué, who is now 62 years old and was previously a member of the political bureau of Ali Bongo’s Democratic Party of Gabon, told Gabon’s national television that the military junta saved him from the “mental and psychological torture” he was experiencing in Libreville Central Prison. He, who became a critic of Ali Bongo, accusing him of serving his own family rather than Gabon, was arrested on charges of embezzling public funds. Nzué expressed deep gratitude to Brice Oligui Nguema for ordering his release, as he had been illegally detained for three years without trial and stated he was “available for anything.”
Renaud Allogho Akoue, who had been sentenced to 10 years, stated that Nguema, with this act, had shown “he is a patriot.” “Gabon needed this. We have been waiting for it for a long time. It happened through General Brice Oligui Nguema and the entire transition committee. As a Gabonese citizen, I salute and congratulate them.”