Rose Francine Rogombe was sworn in as Gabon’s interim president on today, the first step in the process of replacing President Omar Bongo, Africa’s longest-serving head of state, who died earlier this week.
Bongo’s death left a power vacuum at the head of the central African nation that he tightly controlled for over four decades and, with a well-developed oil industry and a Eurobond, investors are watching carefully for signs of trouble. After a series of coups elsewhere in Africa over the last year, some had feared Bongo’s death would spark instability.
But analysts have said that the president’s ruling party was likely to tightly manage the transition and doubted popular unrest. According to Gabon’s constitution, Rogombe, a lawyer by training who was head of the Senate when Bongo died, will have 45 days to hold elections to select a new head of state.
“I swear to devote all my efforts to looking after the Gabonese people … to respect and defend the constitution and the rule of law and to conscientiously carry out my job by being fair to all,” Rogombe said, one hand on Gabon’s constitution. Rogombe’s time in power as interim leader can be extended in case of force majeur, said Marie Madeleine Mborantsouo, who swore in the new president on Wednesday in her position as head of the Constitutional Court.
Bongo’s has been praised by some for maintaining stability in his own country and contributing to African peace efforts. But the last months of his life were equally overshadowed by investigations by a French judge into how much money he and his family allegedly stole from the state coffers during his time in power, which has left most ordinary people mired in poverty.