In what is seen as an attempt to placate the military and consolidate his stay in power, Gabon’s ‘Transitional President”, General Brice Oligui Nguema has revised the country’s law to allow senior military personnel the right to get married to more than one wife.
Although the 1972 Civil Code deems polygamy to be “consistent” with customary matrimonial practices, a decree signed in 1976 obliged military personnel “to marry monogamously and may not enter into marriage without authorization from the appropriate authority”.
But on Monday, January 22, Oligui’s Council of Ministers changed the existing legislation to allow senior officials of the country’s Military to go in for polygamous marriages.
The new legislation has been welcomed by the country’s top military officers, but NGOs have blasted it as undemocratic.
A former public prosecutor, Sidonie Flore Ouwé, who is also president of the feminist NGO “Salon de la femme”, is indignant that only generals are benefiting from this progress.
“Let it be democratized! Let all military personnel have the possibility of marrying several wives so as not to be discriminated against.”
Besides granting the right to polygamy for the country’s generals, Oligui has also sought to keep the military loyal by granting them what is known as “le bonus du coup de la liberation” -a sort of reward to the military for taking power in a bloodless coup d’état on August 30. The bonus benefits all members of the military, with the lowest ranking soldier set to be paid CFA F 50,000.
The military advantages are widely viewed as part of a vast effort by the military leader to keep his hold on power, despite initial promises of a transition to civilian rule.
Shortly after overthrowing Ali Bongo Ondimba in a coup d’état, Brice Oligui Nguema declared that there was no longer any majority or opposition in Gabon. His “policy of openness” has also meant absorbing those who used to oppose Bongo and at the same time bringing Bongo’s supporters to his side.
Brice Oligui Nguema’s political ambitions are clear: to be the leader behind whom all Gabonese must rally.
“Today, I am the leader (…) I am your illustrious warrior, Akoma Mba [the name of the greatest character in the mythology of the Fang people, to whom Oligui Nguema belongs through his father]. I am the only leader. Because all power comes from God (…) I ask only one thing of you, and that is to get behind me”, Oligui declared.
On 17 January, the appointment of Alexandre Barro Chambrier, one of Ali Bongo Ondimba’s main opponents, as Deputy Prime Minister further weakened the opposition that Brice Oligui Nguema would have faced. The main opposition figures are now all in government. Three other members of the Alternance 2023 opposition platform, François Ndong Obiang, Paulette Missambo and Raymond Ndong Sima, occupy the posts of First Vice-President of the National Assembly, President of the Senate, and Prime Minister respectively. They will all be barred by the transition charter, which states that they “are not eligible for the presidential election which will be organized to mark the end of the transition”. But the same charter is silent on the fate of Brice Oligui Nguema.