Libreville (Caasimada Online) – In a seismic shift that could redraw Gabon’s political landscape, a cadre of military officers announced on Wednesday that they had taken control of the government.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been in power since 2009 and is part of a family dynasty that has ruled for more than half a century, is reportedly under house arrest.
His son and close adviser, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and several key officials have been detained on charges ranging from treason to corruption.
“Today, the country is going through a serious institutional, political, economic, and social crisis,” an officer declared in a televised address, flanked by members of the elite Republican Guard and other military personnel.
The Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), speaking on behalf of the people of Gabon, stated that they aim to “defend peace by putting an end to the current regime.”
A contested election
The military coup comes in the wake of a highly disputed election. Gabon’s national election authority declared President Bongo the victor of his third term with 64.27% of the votes.
However, the main opposition, led by university professor Albert Ondo Ossa, vehemently accused Bongo of “fraud,” calling for a peaceful transition of power.
“The elections did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible, and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon,” emphasized the CTRI in their statement, broadcast on state TV.
According to official results, this echoes the turbulent aftermath of Gabon’s 2016 presidential election, where violent protests erupted following a narrow win for Bongo.
The bongo dynasty
Gabon, a nation of merely 2.3 million people, gained independence from France in 1960. Since then, it has been predominantly under the rule of the Bongo family.
Omar Bongo, the current president’s father, was a close ally of France and amassed significant wealth during his 41-year reign.
This long-standing relationship explains the continued French military presence in Gabon, as pointed out by the French defense ministry.
In response to the current situation, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne stated that her government is observing the events “with the greatest attention.”
Meanwhile, China called for immediate dialogue to ensure President Bongo’s safety and restore normalcy. Russia expressed its “deep concern” over the unfolding crisis.
Gabon isn’t alone in experiencing coups; the continent has seen similar events in Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Niger in the past three years.
French mining group Eramet, a significant employer in Gabon, has suspended its operations due to safety concerns.
As the world watches closely, Gabon teeters on the brink of a new political era. With citizens, governments, and corporations affected locally and internationally, the stakes couldn’t be higher for this oil-rich Central African nation.