Gabon A surprising coup by military officials in Gabon has stated that it will usurp President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s position, endangering the family’s fifty-year hold on the country’s government.
Gabon Announcing the president’s house arrest during the military takeover on national television on Wednesday, men in uniform sparked cheers and reports of gunshots in the streets of the city, but also anger abroad.
An anonymous junta spokeswoman announced on state TV on Wednesday morning that the “national and international community is made aware that Ali Bongo Ondimba is being kept under house arrest.” The spokesperson said that the deposed president is surrounded by his “family and doctors.”
General Brice Oligui Nguema will serve as the provisional leader, the junta later declared. On Wednesday night, a spokesman for the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) announced on national television while flanked by other soldiers that Oligui had been “unanimously” chosen as “president of the transition.”
The president’s son, Nourredin Bongo Valentin, who was detained alongside six other people for “high treason,” will reportedly face prosecution, according to a junta official.
Following his house arrest, the president is seen in a video requesting his “friends” to “make noise,” according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.
He stated, “My wife is in another location, and my son is somewhere else.”
Sitting in what appears to be a library, Bongo continued, “I am at the house.” I don’t know what’s going on, nothing is happening.
What circumstances the picture had been produced in were not immediately apparent.
General Brice Oligui Nguema, the coup leader, was supported by soldiers in the coup leader’s hometown of Libreville, according to video footage broadcast by AFP. He was observed atop the shoulders of soldiers who were yelling “president.”
Adding that he has not “yet” proclaimed himself the new leader of Gabon, Oligui informed the French publication Le Monde that military generals would convene on Wednesday to choose a leader for the transfer of power.
He asserted that President Ali Bongo Ondimba, also known as Ali Bongo, had “retired” and is now living out “all his rights” as a “normal Gabonese” citizen. Following the junta spokesperson’s remark, he declined to confirm whether the president is indeed under house arrest. In a previously adjudged election, Ali Bongo was declared the winner.
In a live broadcast on the television platform Gabon24, formerly known as Twitter, the officers announced the move while claiming to speak for the nation’s “defense and security forces.”
The broadcast featured a military officer saying, “On behalf of the Gabonese people and guarantor of the protection of institutions.”
In the broadcast, the military official declared that the election results would be thrown out and that the country’s borders would be closed. All institutions in the nation have been closed, the officer continued, urging Gabonese citizens to “remain calm.”
After the television appearance, a Reuters correspondent reported that loud shooting could be heard in Libreville, the country’s capital.
According to recordings, Gabon’s citizens could be seen dancing and having a good time in the city’s main square.
An urgent conference with representatives from Burundi, Cameroon, and Senegal was called by Willy Nyamitwe, the chair of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, in response to the coup.
The African Union stated in a statement on Wednesday that Moussa Faki Mahamat, the commission’s president, had denounced the removal and urged the coup’s participants to “return to democratic constitutional order.”
According to his spokesman, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is discussing “the next steps forward” with other heads of state within the African Union while “watching developments in Gabon very closely.”
From all across the world, criticism started to flow in. According to government spokesman Olivier Veran, France has denounced the “military coup d’état that is taking place in Gabon.”
While the French foreign ministry recommended its residents in Gabon to “avoid or limit” travel, the US Embassy advised its citizens in the city to seek refuge.
According to his spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also denounced the “ongoing coup attempt as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis” in Gabon on Wednesday.
The army and security forces were instructed by Guterres to “ensure the bodily integrity of Ondimba and his family” and to “exercise caution” by “all parties engaged.
Nine coups have occurred in former French colonies in the last three years, undermining democratic advancements in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Tunisia, and now Gabon.
Bongo’s long rule
Following a general election that was plagued by delays and that the opposition claimed was fraudulent, Gabon’s election commission announced earlier on Wednesday that Bongo had won the race for president with 64.27% of the vote, according to Reuters.
Albert Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s major rival, finished in second place with 30.77% of the vote, according to the electoral body. Ondo Ossa’s charges of electoral fraud had been denied by Bongo’s staff.
Seven years after the nation’s independence from France, in 1967, the elder Bongo took office.
He dominated the little country with an iron fist.
According to the Gabonese embassy website in the US, Ali Bongo started his political career in 1981 and served as foreign minister and a congressman from 1989 to 1991. Before taking office as president in 2009, he served as defense minister from 1999.
Ali Bongo faced 18 opponents in this week’s election, six of whom backed Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, to help the campaign become more competitive. In the 2.3 million-strong oil-rich but impoverished country, many members of the opposition were calling for change.
International observers complained of a lack of openness as tensions rose amid worries about violence following the voting on Saturday.
Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit organization, criticized the Gabonese government for impeding foreign media coverage of the election before it took place.
Josep Borrell, in charge of the EU’s foreign policy, stated on Wednesday that “increased instability in the entire region” would result “if (the situation in Gabon) is confirmed (to be) yet another military coup.”
This is not the first power struggle or unrest in Gabon over Bongo’s rule, which has constantly been criticized.
When violent street protests broke out in 2016 in opposition to Bongo’s controversial re-election for a second term, the parliament building was set on fire. The authorities at the time blocked internet connection for a number of days.
In 2019, there was an attempt at a coup when a group of troops and military officers seized the offices of the state radio and television, kidnapped the workers, and declared they had taken over the country.
Before Gabonese defense and security personnel intervened to put an end to the takeover and free the hostages, they made reference to their displeasure with Bongo as president and promised to “restore democracy” in the nation. As a result, eight military officers were detained and two troops were slain.