Sylvia Bongo, the former first lady of Gabon, is now in prison, placed in provisional detention for a minimum of ten days. She was incarcerated in Libreville during the night of October 11-12, 2023. Sylvia, a 60-year-old Franco-Gabonese national, had been under house arrest since the coup against her husband, Ali Bongo Ondimba, on August 30. She faces allegations of economic crimes.
Bongo has been charged for the past two weeks with offenses including concealment, forgery, use of forged documents, and money laundering, related to the alleged concealment of the illegal origins of funds, according to the investigating judge.
As of this night, Sylvia Valentin Bongo, who served as Gabon’s first lady for nearly 14 years, now holds the status of an inmate at Libreville’s central prison. She joins her son Noureddin Bongo Valentin, who was arrested on the night of the coup, and accused of corruption and embezzlement, along with Brice Laccruche Alihanga, the former director of her husband’s cabinet. Alihanga, known as BLA in Gabon, fell out of favor and was imprisoned in 2019.
There was a confrontation between Sylvia Bongo and Alihanga yesterday before she was detained. Many observers believe the former first lady played a significant role at the highest levels of the state, particularly since her husband’s cardiovascular incident five years ago.
Despite the allegations against her, Sylvia Bongo’s French attorney, Maître François Zimeray, criticizes the legal process. He deems it “illegal” ever since she was put under house arrest. “No one is defending her; that’s why she needs a defense,” he emphasizes. “This is the difference between justice and arbitrariness, law and vengeance.”