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Gabon: Latest in a series of coups in Africa

August 30, 2023 at 8:03 pm

Supporters of the military administration gather on a street after Gabonese army officers enter the national television building following the announcement of the presidential election results and announce that they take over, in Libreville, Gabon on August 30, 2023 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

The latest military coup in Gabon, a small Central African country, drew worldwide attention on Wednesday, as the continent has been plagued by military takeovers in recent years, the latest being in Niger last month, Anadolu Agency reports.

A group of soldiers announced on national television the seizure of power, the cancellation of Saturday’s elections due to arrest of several prominent government figures.

Noureddine Bongo Valentin, the son of Gabonese President, Ali Bongo Ondimba, and President of the National Assembly, Richard Auguste Onouviet, are being held, according to the junta known as the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI).

Gabon, a 2.1 million-people country that was a French colony for many years, gained independence in 1960. Gabon has experienced numerous coup attempts since then.

Although the first coup attempt occurred in February 1964, the coup plotters were deposed from power through the intervention of French soldiers stationed in Senegal.

Africa has witnessed over 8 coups in the last three years with the latest military take over being announced in Gabon Wednesday barely a month after a military intervention in Niger last month [Muhammed Ali Yiğit/Anadolu Agency]

Following the death of Gabon’s first President, Leon M’ba in 1967, his deputy, Omar Bongo, father of the current President Ali Bongo, assumed the prospect, ushering in the Bongo family’s rule.

In 1973, Omar Bongo converted to Islam after meeting with Libya’s then-leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Although the power was transferred to a political coalition during the democratisation process in 1990, two coups occurred in the same year. After the ensuing internal turmoil, French troops intervened again to restore temporary calm.

READ: FACTBOX – Recent coups in Africa

Omar Bongo regained power in December 1993, winning the presidential election again in 1998 and 2005. However, he died of a heart attack in Spain in 2009.

The temporary presidency was given to then-Speaker of Parliament, Rose Francine Rogombe.

Era of son Ali Bongo

In 2009, Ali Bongo won elections and became the country’s new President, and he was predicted for a second seven-year term in 2016.

Despite winning the presidential elections for the third time on Saturday, incumbent President Bongo faced criticism for imposing a curfew due to investigations of “violence” during the voting process and for restricting internet access during the vote counting process, leading to accusations of irregularities in the elections.

Opposition figures reacted to the government’s actions, with opposition leader, Ondo Ossa, accusing the president of electoral fraud during his presidential campaign.

Following the events, a group of soldiers in the country seized power, declaring the elections void and closing the country’s borders.

Foreign companies exploit natural resources

Gabon is well-known for its oil and natural gas resources, as well as diamonds, uranium, gold, timber and iron.

Gabon is the sixth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the richest countries in the region in terms of per capita income.

As a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country is estimated to have 2 billion barrels of crude oil and around 300 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves.

Additionally, Gabon possesses the world’s third-largest renewable freshwater reserves.

READ: Gabon military stages coup and cancels election result