- Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, the wife of Gabon’s ousted president Ali Bongo, was jailed on Wednesday for money laundering, forgery, and falsification of records.
- She had been under house arrest since the August coup that ended the Bongo family’s 60-year rule.
Some residents of the Gabonese capital, Libreville, welcomed the news of her imprisonment. Shopkeeper Judith Milebou Ndzamba said, “I’d prefer she stays there for life. They made the Gabonese people suffer too much.”
Retired resident Bitegue Bi Ngong agreed, saying, “While Sylvia Bongo is under arrest, we need to recover all the money they and their family stole over 60 years.”
Bongo Ondimba Valentin and one of her sons are under investigation as part of a wider inquiry into alleged embezzlement of public funds. Her lawyer says she will be able to appeal for her release at a hearing in 10 days.
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Coup leaders accuse Bongo Ondimba Valentin and her son of manipulating the former president, who suffered a serious stroke in 2018. Ali Bongo, who had ruled Gabon since 2009, was overthrown by military leaders moments after being proclaimed the winner of a presidential election. The election result was branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who have also accused Bongo’s regime of corruption and bad governance.
Despite being Africa’s third-richest nation in terms of per-capita GDP, one in three Gabonese people lives below the poverty line.