Gabon: Details on President Brice Oligui Nguema’s Official Visit to France

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Gabonese President Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema is set to make his inaugural official visit to France from May 28 to June 2. Accompanied by several ministers, including the Minister of Economy, President Nguema will travel to Paris for a working visit during which he will be received by President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace.

The discussions will focus on bilateral relations, shared interests such as climate and forestry, and the smooth progression of Gabon’s political transition. Libreville aims to distinguish itself from Sahel countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, which have been shaken by coups and have rejected French interests. “Clearly, our transition is fundamentally different. We want to show that our situation is unique. Our relationship with France should be normalized, just like our relationships with other partners,” a well-informed source stated.

President Nguema’s meeting with President Macron is scheduled for Friday, May 31. Some observers interpret this visit as a quest for legitimacy from France. “There is some truth to that, but it’s not the primary objective. He has already been received by the UN and numerous heads of state,” noted a knowledgeable insider. Given the growing distrust of Paris in several African capitals, the meeting holds mutual importance for both France and Gabon.

Under former President Ali Bongo, Franco-Gabonese relations experienced periods of tension. Gabon also seemed to distance itself by joining the Commonwealth two years ago. However, the August coup did not exacerbate the cooling of relations. Instead, the two countries have maintained close ties.

“Paris has no reason to worry”

President Nguema first met President Macron on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai on December 1. “After the coup, France and the OIF supported us without excluding us. Of course, our history with France has had its ups and downs. If adjustments are needed, we will make them, but we are not pursuing a pseudo-revolutionary pan-Africanist agenda. Paris has no reason to worry,” analyzed a source at the Presidential Palace in Libreville.

Currently, Gabon remains at least partially suspended from the Commonwealth and the African Union. Being received in Paris could help Libreville fully reintegrate into the international community. “With the Commonwealth, we are working to restore our standing. Entrepreneur delegations from the organization visited Libreville a few weeks ago. As for the African Union, we hope it will respect the principle of subsidiarity and follow the example of ECCAS, which lifted its sanctions a few weeks ago,” a source in Libreville indicated.

The French military base at Camp de Gaulle, established in 1960, is expected to be a topic of discussion during the visit. This is a sensitive issue for Paris, which has seen its troops withdraw from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. “No closure is planned,” assured a well-informed source in Gabon. “But this is not a major issue for us. Paris is reconfiguring its military presence in Africa. When a final decision is made, we will renegotiate our agreements in the best interest of both parties,” the source added.

Jean-Marie Bockel, the French President’s personal envoy for Africa, visited Gabon in March. He presented ongoing projects concerning the future of the approximately 380 French soldiers and Defense Ministry personnel currently stationed there, hinting at a potential reduction in personnel.

Soukaina Sghir

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