Gabon: Court Cancels Former Chief Justice’s Appointment as Honorary President

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
3 Min Read

In a significant turn of events, the Gabonese Constitutional Court announced on February 2nd the nullification of the appointment of Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, its former head from 1991 to 2023, to the position of honorary president. Mborantsuo had long been considered a stalwart of the power structure led by the Bongo family.

The court’s declaration serves as a clear repudiation. In Gabon, the Constitutional Court revealed the reversal of Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo’s appointment as honorary president. The magistrate had presided over the country’s highest judicial body for over three decades and was perceived as a cornerstone of the ruling regime.

In justifying this decision, the court cited “procedural, formal, and substantive flaws” observed in the deliberation that appointed Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo to the honorary presidency. Christian Bignoumba Fernandes, the senior judge of the Constitutional Court, conveyed this on February 2nd in a televised statement. The judge explained that the said deliberation was not recorded in the court’s registry, leading the judicial institution to “declare null and void” the said decision.

Remarkably, the announcement disclosed that the “iron lady,” as she was colloquially known, had been discreetly appointed on September 2, 2023. However, this information only surfaced last week, notably in the press and during the judicial opening ceremony, when Dieudonn√© Aba’A Owono, Mborantsuo’s successor, acknowledged the former judge, outlining her new responsibilities.

The reasons behind the court’s backtrack remain somewhat unclear. Nevertheless, political pressure had been mounting since Mborantsuo’s appointment. Social media and political circles accused the transitional authorities of deviating from the spirit of last August’s coup, retaining a key figure from the former regime in ostensibly honorary roles that still carry certain perks, including health coverage, travel expenses, and an official vehicle. Mborantsuo is also seen as a symbol of the old regime, having consistently validated even the most disputed presidential elections, enabling the Bongo family to maintain their grip on power.

While the law grants Mborantsuo the right to assume the position of honorary president, her recognition must be endorsed by her peers or the transitional president. Given her controversial role, questions arose about the merit of bestowing the honorary presidency upon her.

The court’s decision reflects a dynamic political landscape in Gabon, where the legacy of the former regime intertwines with the aspirations of a nation navigating a period of transition.

Soukaina Sghir

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