Gabon: Yet Another African Nation Hit by a Military Coup

Written by Medha Bhagwat

September 6, 2023

Affaires | Travel

A military coup pushed the Central African nation of Gabon into a state of utter chaos. A group of senior military officers seized power in the capital city of Libreville on 30 August, minutes after the results of the presidential election was announced. The move ousted President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family had held power over the nation for almost 56 years.

What Happened?

Gabon went to polls on 26 August and via the results Bongo was re-elected for a third term with about two-thirds of the votes. The coup leaders, a group of mutinous soldiers, disagreed with the official results and appeared on state TV announcing the cancellation of the election results. According to them, this was the first step taken towards ‘putting an end to the current regime’. The opposition also stated on 29 August that their candidate Albert Ondo Ossa had won and there had been widespread rigging.

The coup leaders defended their move by mentioning that the elections ‘did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible, and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon’.

Post Declaration of the Coup

After the announcement, hundreds of people came out on the streets in Libreville celebrating and welcoming the coup. Videos of their celebration was circulating online on 30 August in which the citizens were seen dancing and shouting ‘liberated!!’ in the Nzeng Ayong district of Libreville. Some videos also showed soldiers carrying the coup leader Brice Oligui Ngeuma on their shoulders calling him ‘president’.

A reason behind this elation can be the accusations of election fraud and corruption on Bongo ever since he became the President of Gabon over 14 years ago.

Gabon’s Future

Coming to what comes next, there has been a dissolution of institutions of state, this includes “the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council and the Gabonese Elections Centre”. According to state media, Bongo is currently placed under house arrest, his son is behind bars, all borders as well as government offices are seemingly shut down.

A lot still remains undetermined. The military is firstly expected to temporarily restore the constitutional court and gradually the domestic flights. The national borders will also remain closed until further notice. International radio and television channels will slowly resume their broadcast as per Oligui’s orders.

His orders come as he took the oath of office as the interim president on 4 September and promised a ‘free, transparent and credible elections’, a timeframe of which is yet to be mentioned. However, obscurities into Gabon’s near future continue to exist as many questions relating to the country’s leadership, consequences of the coup for the Central African nation’s global reputation and diplomatic relations remain unanswered.

International Response

Meanwhile, several world leaders have condemned the action by the military personnel and also warned their own citizens stuck in Gabon to remain vigilant and exercise caution. These include organizations and institutions such as the African Union (over 55-member states), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the United Nations, the European Union, and countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain.

Along with from Gabon, multiple coups have been reported in Africa in the past three years alone. Many of these countries are known to be the continent’s former French colonies. These include Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Tunisia.

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