Gabon Appoints its First Female Prime Minister

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The Central African country of Gabon has appoints the first woman as its Prime Minister. President Ali Bongo promoted his defense minister, Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, to the position, in a move celebrated across the nation.

She will succeed Julien Nkoghe Bekale, who had held the position since January 2019.

In a statement, the president’s office said Ossouka Raponda’s mission would include “ensuring (Gabon’s) economic relaunch and necessary social support in the light of the world crisis linked to COVID-19”.

Bongo’s presidency was rocked by an attempted coup last year. The announcement of Ossouka Raponda’s promotion makes the fourth overhaul since January. Bongo was in Saudi Arabia, recovering from a stroke.

Last month, lawmakers in Gabon voted to decriminalize homosexuality. The bill was spearheaded by Bekale, who is a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community.

“As I am against the death penalty, I am also against the stigmatisation of homosexuals. Congratulations to the parliamentarians for having changed mentalities and being able to adapt to the times,” he tweeted at the time.

Not all government officials were in favor of the law change.

“Forty-eight lawmakers have shaken an entire nation and its customs and traditions,” one member of parliament told Reuters.

Human Rights group, Human Dignity Trust, praised the goverment’s shift in policy.

“Gabon now joins African states such as Seychelles, Angola, Mozambique and Botswana who have chosen to rid their lawbooks of archaic provisions which enable discrimination, violence and harassment against LGBT people,” legal chief Victoria Vasey said.

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