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Officers in Gabon stage a coup attempt after Ali Bongo wins another election

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Officers in Gabon stage a coup attempt after Ali Bongo wins another election

DAKAR (Senegal) – A group of senior military officers in Gabon announced on Wednesday that they had seized power in the Central African country. Annulment of the disputed presidential election results shortly after the Electoral Commission announced that President Ali Bongo had won another term.

The Bongo family has led Gabon, an oil-rich country of about 2 million people, for 56 years, and critics accuse it of abusing its position to accumulate vast amounts of wealth. In a video clip broadcast on state television, senior officers announced the closure of borders and the dissolution of state institutions including the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court. They said in a later statement that Bongo is under house arrest.

“In the name of the Gabonese people…we have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” said one of the officers, as he read a joint statement on national television, surrounded by about a dozen others in military uniform. “We invite the residents to calm down and calm down.”

The military rebellion in Niger follows a series of coups across the region

Frustration with the Bongo regime runs deep, and recent elections, including the Aug. 26 poll in which Bongo won a third term, have been marred by violence and allegations of fraud. As dawn broke, social media explodedCrowds of Gabonese shouted in the streets in celebration of the coupThey wave the Gabonese flag, hug, dance and sing the national anthem.

“It is too early to say whether it is good or not good, but it may be good,” said Paulette Oyan-Ondo, a Gabonese human rights lawyer. “If that means things are going to change, that will be fine.”

It is the latest in a notable series of rebellions in West and Central Africa, including the recent military coup in Niger, which has become a red line for West Africa’s democratically elected leaders. Since 2021, there have also been coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, and Sudan.

But analysts and other leaders in the region pointed out that the coup in Gabon was also different from other coups in the region in several respects. Compared to Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where coups have fueled fears of a rise in violence linked to Islamic extremism, Gabon is a peaceful country and was seen as relatively stable.

But Oyan Ondo said the latest election was widely seen as lacking credibility, citing the government’s shutdown of the internet and lack of observers. Bongo was declared the winner early Wednesday, with election officials saying he won 65% of the vote, compared to 31% for his main challenger Albert Ondo Osa. Shortly after this announcement, military officers announced the coup.

Bongo, who was elected in 2009, and his father, Omar Bongo, who ruled for 41 years before that, were key allies of France, Gabon’s former colonial power, in a region where anti-French sentiment is increasingly running high. It is mentioned in several recent coups. Last June, Bongo met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

French government spokesman Olivier Ferrand said on Wednesday that France “condemns the ongoing military coup in Gabon” and is “monitoring the developments of the situation with great interest.”

France has also said it does not accept the coup in Niger, where the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum remains under house arrest. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the 15-member bloc to which Niger belongs, has threatened military intervention in Niger to restore democracy. Analysts and regional leaders said such a reaction was unlikely in Gabon, which is not part of that group.

Human rights activist and former Nigerian Senator Shehu Sani hailed the coup against X, The platform formerly known as Twittersaying that “the patriarchal dictatorship in Gabon has been overthrown”.

“Five decades of single-family rule is not democracy,” Sani said. “This is what happens when democracy is stifled.”

Gabonese army officers who announced the coup They called themselves the “Committee on Transition and Institutional Restoration” and said that “irresponsible and unpredictable governance” had led to a deterioration in social cohesion. In the video, the officers said they respect Gabon’s “obligations to the international community”.

Neither Bongo nor his government reacted to the news early Wednesday.

Gabon thwarts a coup attempt against the absent president

And in 2019, the Gabonese government thwarted a coup attempt against the president, who had suffered a stroke earlier that year and left the country for an extended period of time for treatment.

Oyan Ondo, a human rights lawyer, noted that this coup appeared to be considerably more organized than the 2019 attempt, which was quickly thwarted by the authorities. She said there was surprise and jubilation in the streets of Libreville.

“People are dancing in the streets, they are very happy, but it is too early to tell the real vision of the situation,” she said.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that EU foreign ministers will discuss developments in Gabon, which he noted is part of a “very difficult situation” in the region, including Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

He said at a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Toledo, Spain: “Ministers must think deeply about what is happening there and how we can improve our policy with regard to these countries … This is a big issue.” For Europe.”

Bisset reported from London and Umbore from Nairobi.


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