Gabon coup: Military officers place president under house arrest

Published: 3 weeks ago

Updated: 3 weeks ago

Reading time: 3 minutes

Military officers in Gabon have declared they were seizing power from President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a stunning coup, threatening the family’s half-century rule over the central African nation.

Military officials in Gabon have announced they have seized power from President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a dramatic blow that threatens the family's half-century of sovereignty over the Central African nation.

Men in army uniforms appeared on national television on Wednesday to announce that the president was under house arrest during the military's takeover, sparking celebrations and reports of gunfire on the streets of the capital — but provoked overseas condemnation.

An unnamed junta spokesman said on state television on Wednesday morning that \Ali Bongo Ondimba is under house arrest is being brought to the attention of the national and international community,\ adding that the ousted president is being besieged by his family and doctors.

The junta later announced that General Brice Oligui Nguema would act as an interim leader.

Speaking on national television surrounded by fellow soldiers on Wednesday evening, a spokesman for the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) said Oligui had been appointed \unanimously\ as \transitional chair\.

A spokesman for the junta said authorities would investigate charges against the president's son, Nourredin Bongo Valentin, who was arrested along with six others on charges of treason.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency released a video in which the president asked his friends to \make noise\ after being under house arrest. \My son is somewhere, my wife is somewhere.\ I'm in a residence,\ Bongo added, sitting in what looked like a library.

Nothing happens, I don't know what's going on.\\ It wasn't immediately clear under what circumstances the film was made.

Meanwhile, AFP showed video footage of soldiers celebrating in support of coup leader General Brice Oligui Nguema in the capital, Libreville.

He was seen on the shoulders of army personnel shouting \President\.

Speaking to the French newspaper Le Monde, Oligui said the military generals will meet on Wednesday to choose a leader for the transition of power, adding that he has not declared himself the new head of state in Gabon \yet.\ President Ali Bongo, also known as Ali Bongo, said Ondimba was \retired\ and enjoyed all his \rights\ as a \normal Gabonese citizen\.

Following the junta spokesman's statement, he refused to confirm whether the president was under house arrest.

Ali Bongo was previously considered the winner of a controversial election.

The officers, who claimed to represent the country's \defence and security forces\, made the announcement in a televised speech on the Gabon24 news channel.

It was spotted by CNN on X, formerly known as Twitter. \On behalf of the people of Gabon and as guarantor of the preservation of institutions, the CTRI [Committee for the Passage and Restoration of Institutions] has decided to defend peace by putting an end to the regime,\ a military officer said in the broadcast.

CNN is unable to independently verify the video and has not yet reached out to the Gabonese government for comment.

The military officer said the election results would be invalidated and the country's borders would be closed.

He added that all institutions in the country have been closed and he is appealing to the people of Gabon to \remain calm.\ A Reuters reporter said loud gunfire could be heard in the capital, Libreville, after television.

According to videos shared with CNN and posted on social media, people in Gabon were seen dancing and celebrating in the streets of the capital.

In a video obtained by CNN, people can be seen shouting \liberated!\ and waving the Gabonese flag next to military vehicles in the capital's Nzeng Ayong district.

The President of the African Union Peace and Security Council, Willy Nyamitwe, held an emergency meeting with representatives from Burundi, Cameroon and Senegal in the aftermath of the coup.

The African Union said on Wednesday that commission president Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the dismissal and urged the coup actors to \return to the democratic constitutional order.\ Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is \following developments in Gabon very closely\ and is speaking to other heads of state within the African Union to decide on \next steps forward,\ according to his spokesperson.

Criticism began to come in from around the world.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran told reporters on Wednesday that France condemned the ongoing military coup in Gabon.

The U.S.

Embassy advised its citizens in the capital to shelter, while the French Foreign Ministry urged its citizens in Gabon to \avoid or limit\ travel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday also condemned the ongoing coup attempt in Gabon as a means of resolving the post-election crisis, according to his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Guterres called on \all relevant actors to exercise restraint\ and urged the military and security forces to \guarantee the physical integrity of Ondimba and his family.\ There have been nine coups in the former French colonies (Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Tunisia and now Gabon) in the last three years that have undermined democratic progress in recent years.

Bongo's lengthy rule Earlier on Wednesday, Gabon's electoral body said Bongo won the presidential election with 64.27% of the vote, Reuters reported after a delayed general election that the opposition condemned as fraudulent.

Bongo's main rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, said in a statement from the electoral body that he was in second place with 30.77%.

Bongo's team had denied Ondo Ossa's allegations of electoral irregularities.

Ali Bongo, 64, took over from his father, Omar Bongo, who died of cardiac arrest in 2009 while undergoing treatment for bowel cancer at a Spanish clinic after nearly 42 years in office.

Bongo the elder came to power in 1967, seven years after the country's independence from France.

He ruled the small nation with an iron fist, imposed a one-party system for years, and only allowed multi-party rule in 1991, although his party retained control over the government.

Ali Bongo began his political career in 1981 and served as secretary of state and congressman from 1989 to 1991, according to the website of the Gabonese embassy in the United States.

He had been defense minister since 1999 before becoming president in 2009.

Disputed election In this week's election, Ali Bongo had 18 rivals, six of whom backed Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, to narrow the race.

Many in the opposition were pushing for change in the oil-rich but poverty-stricken country of 2.3 million.

Tensions were rising after Saturday's vote amid fears of unrest, and international observers complained of a lack of transparency.

Before the elections, the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders condemned the Gabonese government for blocking foreign media coverage of the incident.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Wednesday that if this (the situation in Gabon) were confirmed to be another military coup, it would \increase instability in the entire region\.

This is far from the first time Gabon has seen a power struggle or unrest over Bongo's administration, which has often been discussed by critics.

In 2016, the parliament building was set on fire when violent street protests erupted against Bongo's controversial re-election for a second term.

The government shut down internet access for a few days at the time.

In 2019, a coup attempt came in which a group of soldiers and officers stormed the state radio and television headquarters, took staff hostage and declared that they had taken control of the nation.

Expressing dissatisfaction with Bongo becoming president, they vowed to \restore democracy\ in the country before Gabonese defence and security forces moved to end the takeover and rescue the hostages.

As a result, two soldiers were killed and eight military officers were arrested.


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