Africa Sees Another Coup

Military officers seize power in Gabon, put president under house arrest
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2023 6:25 AM CDT
Officers Seize Power, Arrest President in Gabon
This video grab shoes the spokesperson for the mutinous soldiers speaking on state television as they announce that they had seized power in Libreville, Wednesday Aug. 30, 2023.   (GABON 24 via AP)

Gabon's diplomatic government appears to be falling along with what the New York Times calls "one of Africa's most enduring political dynasties." Military officers in Gabon appeared on television early Wednesday, less than an hour after President Ali Bongo Ondimba was declared to have won a third term, and announced they were seizing power, per the Times. "We have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime," said a spokesman for the group, dubbed the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions. The officers, many wearing the uniform of the Republican Guard in charge of protecting the president, said they were canceling the results of an election that had not been credible, dissolving state institutions, and closing borders until further notice.

Shortly after the announcement, which appeared to have been filmed at the presidential palace in the capital Libreville, gunfire was heard in that same area. There was no comment from 64-year-old Bongo, who is said to be under house arrest, per Reuters. In 2009, he took over from his father, Omar Bongo, who'd been in power since 1967. He was re-elected for a third term during a Saturday vote marked by "loud opposition claims of rigging and fears that, as in many previous elections in Gabon, it would end in violence," per the Times. "The parliament building was torched when violent street protests erupted against Bongo's contested re-election for his second term" in 2016, per the Guardian.

Around 3am Wednesday, the national electoral authority announced Bongo had won 65% of the vote, with his main opponent Albert Ondo Ossa receiving 30%. The coup announcement followed soon after. A spokesperson for the officers said Bongo's "irresponsible and unpredictable governance" threatened chaos in the country of 2.3 million. "If successful, the coup would be the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020," following another in Niger last month, per Reuters. France, the former colonial power with 400 troops in Gabon, is following the events "with the greatest attention," Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said in a statement. France's troops were booted from Mali and Burkina Faso following coups and "Niger's coup leaders have also revoked military agreements with France," per Reuters. (More military coup stories.)

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