Gabon Coup: Citizens, Others In Jubilation Mood After Military Take Over Power 

Scores of citizens, residents and others are in jubilation mood after Military officers in Gabon appeared on national television on Wednesday to declare seize of power.

The announcement came just minutes after President Ali Bongo Ondimba, also known as Ali Bongo, was deemed the victor of a contested election, extending his family’s half-century rule over the Central African nation.

The officers, claiming to represent “defense and security forces” in the country, made the announcement in a televised address on news channel Gabon24.

In the broadcast, the military officer said the election results would be voided and the country’s borders would be shut.

Loud sounds of gunfire could be heard in the capital Libreville, a Reuters reporter said, following the television appearance.

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

In one video, people can be seen shouting “liberated!” and waving the Gabon flag in the Nzeng Ayong district of the capital, alongside military vehicles.

Five countries in western and central Africa have already been seized by military juntas in the past three years, five of them former French colonies. Coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger have undermined democratic progress in recent years.

Most recently, Niger’s military junta seized control of the West African country in late July, prompting the African Union to to suspend Niger’s membership in the group of 55 member states. Earlier this month, Niger’s military ruler proposed a return to democracy within three years, saying the principles of the transition would be decided within the next 30 days.


Bongo’s long rule

Earlier Wednesday, Gabon’s election body said Bongo had won the presidential election with 64.27% of the vote, Reuters reported, after a delay-plagued general election that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.


Bongo’s main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, came in second place with 30.77%, said the election body. Bongo’s team had rejected Ondo Ossa’s allegations of electoral irregularities.


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


The elder Bongo came into power in 1967, seven years after the country’s independence from France.


He ruled over the small nation with an iron fist, imposing a one-party system for years and only allowing multi-party rule in 1991, though his party retained its grip on government.


In this week’s election Ali Bongo had 18 challengers, six of whom had backed Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, in an effort to narrow the race. Many in the opposition were pushing for change in the oil-rich but poverty-stricken nation of 2.3 million.


Tensions were running high amid fears of unrest after Saturday’s vote, with international observers complaining of a lack of transparency.


Ahead of the election, the non-profit Reporters Without Borders condemned the Gabonese government for for obstructing foreign press coverage of the event.


The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that “if (the situation in Gabon) is confirmed (that) it’s another military coup,” it would “increase instability in the whole region.”


“It’s an issue that will be put on table and we will discuss it,” Borrell told reporters ahead of an EU ministerial meeting on defense held in Toledo, Spain.


“The whole area starting with Central African Republic, then Mali, then Burkina Faso, now Niger, maybe Gabon, it’s a very difficult situation,” Borrell said. “Defense ministers and foreign ministers have to have a deep thought on what is going on there. And how we can improve policy with these countries.”


French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said her country was following the situation in Gabon “very closely.”


This is far from the first time Gabon has seen a power struggle or unrest over Bongo’s rule, which has frequently been disputed by critics.


In 2016, the parliament building was torched when violent street protests erupted against Bongo’s contested re-election for his second term. The government shut down internet access for several days at the time.


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


They cited their dissatisfaction with Bongo as president, vowing to “restore democracy” in the country – before Gabonese defense and security forces moved in to end the takeover and rescue the hostages. Two soldiers were killed and eight military officers arrested as a result.

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