In a swift and startling turn of events, military officers in Gabon have announced their takeover of the government, placing President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest. This development marks the latest instance of an attempted coup in Africa, occurring just weeks after a similar mutiny resulted in a change of leadership in Niger.
During a broadcast on state television, a group of military personnel identified themselves as members of the “Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions.” They revealed their intention to seize control of the country and overturn the outcome of a contentious presidential election. The election results, which were a source of dispute, saw President Ali Bongo’s family maintain their grip on power, a legacy spanning almost 56 years.
If successful, this coup would contribute to the growing count of eight similar incidents in the west and central African region since the year 2020. Notable among these takeovers was the coup in Niger in July. The military has similarly seized power in countries like Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad.
In a statement delivered by the military officers, they claimed to represent all Gabonese security and defense forces. As part of their intervention, they announced the nullification of the election results and the closure of borders until further notice. Additionally, existing state institutions were proclaimed dissolved.
The officers justified their intervention by pointing to what they described as a severe crisis encompassing Gabon’s institutional, political, economic, and social spheres. They criticized the transparency and credibility of the election held on August 26, asserting that their actions were driven by the imperative to protect peace and bring an end to the current regime.
The timing of the coup attempt is noteworthy, occurring shortly after President Bongo’s victory in an election that had been overshadowed by concerns about potential violence. The president’s last public appearance was on Saturday when he cast his vote in the election.
As the situation unfolds, the international community watches closely, wary of the potential consequences of yet another political upheaval in the African continent.