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Gabon Coup, election results cancelled, junta in charge

Residents hold a Gabon national flag as they celebrate in Libreville on August 30, 2023 after a group of Gabonese military officers appeared on television announcing they were "putting an end to the current regime" © AFP

A group of military officers staged a successful coup in the Central African nation of Gabon minutes after the results of the presidential election showed that President Ali Bongo had won a third term.

The Gabonese junta declared their intention on television on Wednesday, saying that they have overthrown the Government of President Ali Bongo.

A spokesperson for the group denounced the "irresponsible and unpredictable governance of President Ali Bongo", claiming his 14 years in office had resulted in a deterioration in social cohesion that risked leading the country into chaos.

President Bongo first took office in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo, who had been president since 1967.

On this day, August 30th 2023, we, defense and security forces, meeting within the committee for the transition and restoration of institutions on behalf of the Gabonese people, and guarantors of the protection of institutions, have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime.

The general elections on August 26, as well as the truncated results, are canceled. The borders are closed until further notice. All institutions of Republic are dissolved.

Gabonese Military Officer

The latest elections were overshadowed by lack of international observers raising concerns about transparency.

After the elections, the government curtailed internet access and imposed a nightly curfew across the nation saying that it was necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation.

The election was perceived as not very transparent. There were no observers, as far as one could tell, international observers or major regional observation mission or anything like that.

And the election results were announced in the middle of the night at just around dawn or three, four o'clock in the morning.

Paul Melly, Africa Expert, Chatham House

Gabon is one of the richest countries of Africa in terms of GDP per capita thanks largely to oil revenues and a small population of 2.3 million, but a third of the population still lives below the poverty line on $5.50 per day.

The central African nation of Gabon shares borders with Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea. It was a colony of France before gaining independence in 1960.

Following the coup crowds took to the streets of the capital Libreville and Port-Gentil, the second largest Gabonese city, to celebrate the end of Bongo's reign and chanting slogans against France.

Opponents say the Bongo family has done almost nothing to share the state's oil and mining wealth with the people during this more than half a century in charge of Gabon.

A growing sense of general impatience, as in many African countries, among younger people, urban populations, feeling that it was time for a change, that traditional elites need to move on. And the people feeling that although they had the freedom of speech in Gabon, they couldn't actually choose their leaders.

Paul Melly, Africa Expert, Chatham House

France, Gabon's former colonial ruler, has condemned the military coup in the African country.

France has around 400 soldiers permanently deployed to Gabon for "training and military support", including a base in the capital Libreville. Paris has extensive economic relations with Libreville in the mining and oil sectors.

Gabon is the second former French colony in Africa to experience a military coup in as many months and the sixth in three years following the coups in Mali, Chad Guinea, Burkina Faso and most recently, Niger, whose newly installed junta, may yet meet with an intervention from the country's West African neighbors.

What's happening now is in several countries at the same time, sometimes even three neighboring countries, which is the case in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where there has been a major pullback.

And if it happens everywhere at the same time, that's very bad news for the French authorities because there's this idea of what the authorities called contagion, or at least have examples given ideas to others, obviously, in the same way that in 2011, when people in the streets overthrew the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, they gave ideas to neighboring countries.

So the same thing could happen. But we'll have to wait and see.

Thomas Borrel, Africa Expert

In all of these cases, the former colonizer has been called on to play a role of one kind or another and the question of its influence and each country has been a major one.

The French mining company, Eramet, the second largest private employer in Gabon has announced that, given the current unrest, it is suspending its operations.

France had thousands of troops and Mali, where it led a nearly one decade long military operation to combat an insurgency.

That operation ended in 2022. After the rise of a military junta there throughout the region, France is viewed as a colonial power, which many blame for the widespread instability in the region.

Conflicting reactions within Niger to coup d’état


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