Military officers in Gabon have appeared on national television to say they have seized power. This comes after the country’s election body announced that President Ali Bongo had won a third term. Bongo won just under two-thirds of the votes in a poll tagged as fraudulent by the opposition.
On Wednesday morning, 12 army officers appeared on television announcing they were canceling the results of the election and dissolving all the institutions of the state. The country’s borders have also been closed, they added.
Scores of people celebrated on the streets of the capital Libreville following the announcement. If successful, the coup would be the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020, Reuters reported. Niger experienced a coup in July while soldiers have also seized power in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Chad.
The Gabonese soldiers who announced that they had seized power said they were from the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions and represented security and defense forces in the country. They said President Bongo is under house arrest and one of his sons has been arrested for “treason”.
“President Ali Bongo is under house arrest, surrounded by his family and doctors,” they read from a statement on state TV.
The Bongo family has ruled the oil-producing country for over 50 years. Omar Bongo, the current president’s father, took over the country in 1967 when the country’s first president Léon M’ba died after a long illness. He ruled the country with an iron fist and was accused of running down the country’s economy and favoring the people from his tribe. Following mass riots in the 1980s, Omar Bongo turned the country into a multi-party state in 1990 but his rule was marred with extravagance at the expense of the people. The country is said to have more pipelines than roads.
Upon his death in 2009, his son Ali took over the leadership. He was serving as the minister of defense at the time. His August 2009 election was marred with controversies, something that would repeat in 2016.
A 2009 Transparency International report revealed that the Bongo family owned at least 33 properties in France, most of them in expensive Paris districts. Ali Bongo’s wife, Inge, also appeared on an American reality TV show, Really Rich Real Estate, shopping for a $25m mansion in California.
Just like his father, Ali Bongo has been accused of extravagance, something he tried to dispel with the formation of a youth foundation where he would donate his inheritance from the senior Bongo.
The French government said it is closely monitoring the development of the situation on the ground.