Gabon’s President on Sunday named a new opposition figure to a senior ministerial post, just one day after another senior opposition leader declined the post, undermining the president’s effort to forge a united government ahead of next year’s elections.
President Ali Bongo named Mathieu Mboumba Nziengui, executive secretary of the opposition Union of the Gabonese People, or UPG, as the minister of state for agriculture.
Dieudonné Moukagni Iwangou, the leader of another wing of the UPG wing, rejected the same offer, calling for political change in the oil-rich central African country.
The reshuffle, announced in a presidential decree on Friday, expanded the cabinet to 41 members from 34 initially, and was seen as an attempt by the president to silence his critics who claim that his family dominates the Gabonese political scene since independence in 1960.
The UPG has been divided into 3 wings since the death of its founder, Pierre Mamboundou in 2011.
Iwangou has been one of the most outspoken voices in the opposition, and the president of the Opposition Front for Change – a coalition of groups dedicated to ending the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party’s 47 years in power.
The president also named technocrat Jean Sylvain Bekale Nze as minister for town planning and housing after Jean-Robert Endamane, from the Bongo-allied RPG party, refused the post, saying he had never been consulted about the appointment.