Military Officials Seize Power in Gabon Coup

By Jack Pluth, Guest Writer

On Aug. 30, several military leaders of Gabon led a televised address to the nation stating that they had successfully seized power and taken control of the presidential palace. The group placed President Ali Bongo Ondimba on house arrest and named a new leader after the central African nation declared that Bongo had won a third term. 

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A coalition of Gabonese military officers calling themselves “The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institution” contested the results of the election almost immediately.

Declaring that they represented the armed forces, the coup members announced that election results were nullified, which the opposition claimed as fraudulent. They also stated that borders were closed and state institutions would be dissolved after they executed the coup following the tense election to extend the Bongo family’s 55-year hold of the country’s leadership.

The coalition seized control of several government buildings and in an evening were the de facto leaders of their nation. The military officials in the coup claimed that they took power to keep the peace within the nation and reported that General Brice Oligui Nguema is Bongo’s replacement. Nguema was sworn in as the interim president of Gabon last Monday.

Bongo appealed for help in a video that was allegedly filmed from his residence, in which he told supporters to “raise your voice” in disputing the legitimacy of the coup. 

Bongo’s position in office did not come without controversy. His father, Omar Bongo, led Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009, and Bongo’s extended rule led to the family’s longstanding rule.

The near-dynastic succession of Ali Bongo as head of state has also garnered criticism from residents of Gabon for his policies. Common critics of the Bongo presidency note that the family has done very little to utilize the rich natural resources of their nation in a manner that benefits common citizens.  

These feelings of malcontent came to head immediately after the August presidential elections in Gabon. The August election saw Ali Bongo aim to defend his incumbency from the challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa. Before the first votes were cast, supporters of Ossa expressed concerns that many national polling centers were purposely striking him from the ballot.  

Foreign reporters had also allegedly been banned from entering Gabon during the election process. Incumbent Ali Bongo won with 64.27% of the votes to challenger Albert Ondo Ossa’s 30.77%.  

The United Nations expressed disapproval of the abrupt transfer of power.  Similarly, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby referred to the events as “deeply concerning.”  

Chinese officials also noted their displeasure over the situation and that they intended to continue to observe future events that unfolded in Gabon.

The African Union, a federation of 55 nations on the continent, has expressed their displeasure for the coup in Gabon but has yet to comment on any further actions to be taken.  

If the coup succeeds, it would mark the latest in nine successful military coups that have occurred in Africa during the past three years.

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Deposed president Ali Bongo Ondimba was placed on house arrest during a coup d’erat staged in Gabon on Aug. 30.