Military Coup in Gabon Ends Ali Bongo’s Third Presidential Term Prematurely

The coup plotters accuse the existing authorities of irresponsible governance that will push the country into chaos. This move further raises concerns about the frequency of coups in the African continent.

A group of around 12 army and police personnel in Gabon announced on Wednesday in a statement broadcast on the television station “Gabon 24” from the presidential headquarters, the annulment of the election results and the dissolution of “all republican institutions” and the “termination of the current regime.” This new coup comes amidst a series of military coups affecting the African continent, especially the Sahel region and the Sahara, with the most recent being the coup in Niger.

The military personnel, who claimed to speak on behalf of the “Transitional Phase Committee and Institutions Restoration,” stated that due to irresponsible governance marked by a continuous deterioration of social cohesion that might lead the country into chaos, they decided to defend peace by ending the current regime.

They clarified, “For this purpose, the general elections that were held on August 26, 2023 have been cancelled, along with their results.”

The statement added, “All institutions have been dissolved, including the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, and the Constitutional Court. We call on citizens to remain calm and reaffirm our commitment to Gabon’s obligations towards the international community,” confirming the closure of the country’s borders “until further notice.”

Among these military personnel are members of the Republican Guard responsible for protecting the presidency, as well as soldiers from the army and police. The statement was also broadcast on Gabon’s official television.

During the reading of the statement, journalists heard gunfire from automatic weapons in several neighborhoods of Libreville.

The announcement came shortly after the official results of the presidential elections held on Saturday were published, which showed the re-election of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been ruling the country for 14 years, for a third term with 64.27% of the votes.

Bongo won the election in a single round, surpassing his main rival Jean Ping, who received 30.77% of the votes. The remaining votes were distributed among 12 other candidates, as explained by Stéphane Bonda, the head of the Gabonese Election Center on official television. The voter turnout was 56.65%.

Earlier, Ping spoke of “forgery operations carried out by the Bongo camp” two hours before the closing of the polling stations on Saturday and confirmed his victory in the elections. On Monday, his camp appealed to Bongo to “organize a transfer of power without shedding blood,” based on a vote count conducted by his auditors without publishing any documents to prove it.

Responding to the developments in Gabon, Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday that defense ministers of the bloc’s member states would discuss the situation in the African country. If a coup is confirmed there, it would lead to further instability in the region.

He added while addressing a meeting of the EU’s defense ministers in Toledo, Spain, “If this is confirmed, it will be another military coup that exacerbates the instability in the whole region.”

He continued, “The entire region, starting from the Central African Republic, then Mali, Burkina Faso, now Niger, and perhaps Gabon, is in an extremely difficult situation. Without a doubt, ministers will delve deeply into what is happening there and how we can improve our policy towards those countries. This is a major issue for Europe.”

European countries, especially France, hold significant influence in Gabon. This influence led its former president, Omar Bongo, to say that “Gabonese have a country, which is Gabon, and a friend, which is France.”

Gabon, rich in oil and uranium, is an important country for France on the continent. It is often said that no one can access power in this African country without Paris’s approval. However, this situation appears to be changing today, and French interests are now threatened.

The French mining company Eramet, which owns the Comilog manganese production unit in Gabon, announced on Wednesday that it has suspended all its operations in the country following overnight developments. A company spokesperson stated, “Starting from this morning, all operations of Comilog and SITRAG (subsidiary of Eramet) have been suspended, along with the suspension of railway transport operations.”

The military coup in Gabon adds to regional and international concerns about the increasing frequency of military coups against civilian and democratic regimes in the African continent, following coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.”

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