Gabon Faces Dramatic Political Upheaval as Military Seizes Power After Contested Election
In a stunning turn of events, mutinous soldiers in Gabon have declared a military coup, seizing power following a contentious presidential election. The soldiers claim to have arrested President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has ruled the country for 55 years.
The coup unfolded shortly after President Ali Bongo, aged 64, was declared the winner of an election that had been plagued by concerns of violence. As the election results were announced, gunfire erupted in the heart of the capital, Libreville. Moments later, a group of uniformed soldiers appeared on state television, announcing their takeover of the government.
The streets of Libreville filled with jubilant crowds celebrating the apparent end of President Bongo’s long-standing reign. Citizens sang the national anthem alongside the soldiers and expressed their gratitude to the military for the sudden change.
The mutinous soldiers have declared their intention to “dissolve all institutions of the republic,” according to a spokesperson representing the group, which comprises members from the gendarme, the republican guard, and other security forces. In a subsequent video broadcast on state television, it was revealed that the president and several government officials had been arrested on various charges.
The coup in Gabon is the latest in a series of political upheavals that have rocked countries with historical ties to France, their former colonial power. If successful, it would mark the eighth coup in West and Central Africa since 2020.
Unlike some other West African nations under military rule, Gabon has largely avoided jihadist violence and maintained relative stability. However, high unemployment among the youth, with nearly 40% of those aged 15-24 jobless in 2020, has fueled frustration.
In a speech on Gabon’s Independence Day just a few weeks ago, President Bongo acknowledged the public’s discontent with rising living costs and outlined measures his government was taking to address these concerns.
Gabon, a member of the OPEC oil cartel, is a significant oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, producing around 181,000 barrels of crude oil daily. It is home to over 2 million people and covers an area slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Colorado.
This coup comes at a time when anti-France sentiments are on the rise in many former colonies. President Bongo, educated in France, had met with French President Emmanuel Macron in late June, signalling continued close ties between the two nations. France has 400 soldiers in Gabon, leading a regional military training operation, and as of now, they have not altered their regular operations.
France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed concern over the situation in Gabon, emphasizing that they were closely monitoring developments.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, also noted that the situation in Gabon would be discussed among EU ministers, warning that another military coup would exacerbate instability in the region.
This coup marks a significant moment in Gabon’s history, challenging the decades-long rule of the Bongo family. President Ali Bongo sought a third term in the recent election, having assumed office in 2009 following the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years.
Elections in Gabon have frequently been marred by violence, and concerns about electoral irregularities have persisted. Tensions were high ahead of this election, with international observers citing a lack of transparency.
As the situation unfolds, international condemnation mounts and Gabon faces an uncertain future, with its political landscape in turmoil once again.
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