Global outrage over Ali Bongo’s ouster in Gabon coup

The international community, yesterday, expressed concern and deplored the upwelling wave of military coups in Africa, as Gabon became the seventh African country to fall to a military coup.

Gabonese army officers, under the aegis of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, CTRI, yesterday, sacked President Ali Bongo, placed him under house arrest and took over power in the oil-rich Central African country.

The leaders of the coup in Gabon have named Republican Guard Chief, General Brice Oligui Nguema, as transitional president, according to a TV statement.

“General Oligui Nguema Brice was unanimously appointed chairman of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, chairman of the transition,” declared an officer in the presence of dozens of senior officers, according to the press release read out on Gabon 24.

With Gabon, the number of countries in Africa under military rule in the last two years has jumped to seven. The others are Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Sudan and Niger.

As the ousted Ali Bongo cried out for help, the Gabon coup elicited immediate reactions from President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria; the United Nations, UN; European Union, EU; African Union, AU; Commonwealth; United States of America, US; Russia; and France, who deplored the putsch.

While French Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, said her government was following events in Gabon “with the greatest attention,” Russia said it was “deeply concerned” over the situation in Gabon.

China called for “all sides” in Gabon to guarantee the safety of Bongo, “resolve differences through dialogue, (and) restore normal order as soon as possible.”

The French mining group, Eramet, which employs 8,000 people in Gabon, said it had halted activities in the country “for the safety of staff and the security of operations.”

UN chief condemns Gabon military coup — Spokesman

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, condemned the military takeover in Gabon, following elections, his spokesman said.

Guterres “firmly condemns the ongoing coup attempt as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis” and reaffirms “his strong opposition to military coups,” said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Situation in Gabon, a big issue for Europe – EU’s Borrell

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, said EU defence ministers would discuss the situation in Gabon.

Borrell added that if a coup was confirmed in Gabon, it would heap more instability on the region.

Speaking at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Toledo, Borrell said: “If this is confirmed, it is another military coup which increases instability in the whole region.

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

“This is a big issue for Europe.’’

African Union deplores coup in Gabon

The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, also said he “strongly condemns” what he described as an attempted coup in Gabon.

Rebel officers in the oil-rich central African state announced earlier yesterday they had seized power, following disputed elections in what Faki also described as a “flagrant violation” of the legal and political instruments of the African Union.

US watching Gabon — White House

The United States equally said it was closely watching the situation in Gabon following a military coup.

“It’s deeply concerning. We are going to watch this closely, and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to support the idea of democratic ideals that are expressed by the African people,” said White House national security spokesman, John Kirby.

Commonwealth says Gabon coup ‘deeply concerning’

The Commonwealth voiced fears about the military coup in Gabon, which joined the grouping last year, saying it was monitoring the situation closely.

The Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, said the situation was “deeply concerning”, adding that “the Commonwealth Charter is clear that member states must uphold the rule of law and the principles of democracy at all times.”

Russia ‘deeply concerned’ – Kremlin

Similarly, the Kremlin said it was concerned by events in Gabon, where military officers announced they had deposed President Ali Bongo.

“We are deeply concerned about the situation in Gabon. We are closely following what is going on there,” Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.

France condemns Gabon coup

France condemned the toppling of Ali Bongo, which could represent another setback for Paris in Africa where friendly governments have been falling in an “epidemic” of coups.

‘’France condemns the military coup that is under way in Gabon,” government spokesman, Olivier Veran, told reporters in Paris yesterday.

Veran said France was following events “with a lot of attention” and that it “reiterates its desire to see the results of the election respected,” referring to Saturday’s disputed presidential polls in the West African country.

Gabon’s electoral authority had announced earlier yesterday that Bongo, a French ally whose family has ruled oil-rich Gabon for 55 years, had won a third term with 64.27 per cent of the vote.

France has around 400 soldiers permanently deployed in the country for training and military support, including at a base in the capital, and has extensive economic ties to the country in the mining and oil sectors.

Colonial past

Paris has maintained a strong military presence in many of its former colonies in West Africa, as well as close business links which were promoted as part of a discredited post-colonial policy known as “Francafrique”.

Its past support for corrupt and authoritarian leaders has tarnished its image, while China and most recently Russia have worked to undercut its influence in an area where it was once the undisputed foreign power.

French President Emmanuel Macron lamented an “epidemic of putsches” during a speech to ambassadors on Monday.

The 45-year-old French leader visited Gabon in March for a forestry summit in a move that was interpreted by some opposition figures as signalling support for Bongo ahead of Saturday’s disputed presidential elections.

During a speech in the capital Libreville, Macron denied any French ambitions to interfere in Africa, saying that the age of “Francafrique” was “well over.”

However, a coup in Niger last month which overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, a close French ally, has led Macron to take a hard line with the new military regime which he has refused to recognise.

France has 1,500 troops stationed there and was banking on the country to serve as a cornerstone of its new military strategy for the Sahel region, where it is fighting against a growing jihadist insurgency by groups aligned with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
France intervened militarily to beat back advancing extremists in Mali in 2013 at the request of the country’s then-government.

“France will not benefit from continuing to deny the turning point that we are seeing in the Sahel and perhaps more widely in West Africa,” Jezequel told AFP.

Rule of law must not perish in Africa, Tinubu warns

Speaking on the Gabon coup, President Bola Tinubu warned that the rule of law and democratic instruments of resolving electoral disputes must not be allowed to perish in Africa.

The president said he was watching the unfolding events in Gabon and working with other leaders of the African Union to achieve a consensus position on the matter.

Briefing State House correspondents at the presidential villa, Abuja, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Ajuri Ngelale, who conveyed the president’s position, said Tinubu affirmed that power belongs to the people and not the barrel of guns.

His words: “President Bola Tinubu is watching developments in Gabon very closely with deep concern for the country’s social political stability and at the seeming autocratic contagion apparently spreading across different regions of our beloved continent.

“The president, as a man who has made significant personal sacrifices in his own life in the course of advancing and defending democracy, is of the unwavering belief that power belongs in the hands of Africa’s great people and not in the barrel of a loaded gun.

“The president affirms that the rule of law and a faithful recourse to the constitutional resolutions and instruments of electoral dispute resolution must not at any time be allowed to perish from our great continent.

“To this end, the president is working very closely and continuing to communicate with other Heads of State in the African Union and beyond towards a comprehensive consensus on the next steps forwards with respect to how the crisis in Gabon will play out and how the continent will respond to the contagion of autocracy we are seeing spread across our continent.”

…Speaks with Canadian PM

Meanwhile, President Tinubu and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, have spoken over the phone on the coups in Gabon and Niger Republic, agreeing on the need to preserve constitutional democratic governance on the continent.

According to Ngelale, “the two heads of state mutually agreed that the promotion and protection of constitutional democratic governance on the continent remains a paramount priority and that the people of Africa living in the Diaspora around the world, making a huge impact to the sociopolitical landscapes of countries around the world and the economies of countries around the world, continue to urge on the global community to advance the cause of democracy on the continent for the sake of the economic prosperity of all Africans.

“So, it is of utmost importance to understand that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will continue to engage with heads of state, not just within the African Union, but also around the world and those engagements are ongoing.”

Why we struck

In the address on national television rendered in French but translated to English by AFP, the soldiers highlighted serious institutional, political, economic, flawed presidential poll of August 26 and social crises as factors responsible for the coup that they tagged ‘necessary’ for the progress of the Central African country.

The junta said: “Our beautiful country, Gabon, has always been a haven of peace. Today, the country is going through a serious institutional, political, economic and social crisis.

“We are, therefore, forced to admit that the organisation of the general elections of August 26, 2023, did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon.

“Added to this is irresponsible and unpredictable governance, resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion, with the risk of leading the country into chaos.

“Today, 30 August 2023, we, the defence and security forces, gathered as the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, CTRI, on behalf of the people of Gabon and as guarantors of the institutions’ protection — have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime.

“To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled.

In the dramatic pre-dawn address, the group of officers declared “all the institutions of the republic” had been dissolved, the election results cancelled and the borders closed.

TV images later showed the head of the Republican Guard, General Brice Oligui Nguema, being carried in triumph by hundreds of soldiers, to cries of “Oligui president.”

Bongo’s son and close adviser Noureddin Bongo Valentin, his chief of staff, Ian Ghislain Ngoulou, as well as his deputy, two other presidential advisers and the two top officials in the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG) “have been arrested,” a military leader said.

They are accused of treason, embezzlement, corruption and falsifying the president’s signature, among other allegations, he added.

Disputed poll

Rebel officers seized power following disputed elections in which President Ali Bongo, in power since 2009, had been declared victor.

Bongo was first elected in 2009 following the death of his father Omar, who had ruled the country for 41 years, reputedly amassing a fortune en route.

The announcement came just moments after the national election authority declared Bongo had won a third term in Saturday’s election with 64.27 percent of the vote.

Gabon’s main opposition, led by university professor Albert Ondo Ossa, had angrily accused Bongo of “fraud” and demanded that he hand over power “without bloodshed.”

The authorities at the weekend imposed an overnight curfew and shut down the internet nationwide. The internet was restored on Wednesday morning after the TV address.

Gabon’s 2016 presidential elections were marked by deadly violence after Bongo was named winner, edging out rival Jean Ping by just 5,500 votes, according to the official tally.

Family ruler

A country of just 2.3 million people, Gabon has been ruled by the Bongo family for more than 55 out of its 63 years since independence from France in 1960.

Omar Bongo was one of France’s closest allies in the post-colonial era and his son has long been a regular in Paris, where his family owns an extensive real estate portfolio that is being investigated by anti-corruption magistrates.

Paris maintains a military presence in many of its former territories — including Gabon where it has 370 soldiers permanently deployed, some in the capital Libreville, according to the French defence ministry website.

Gabon president appeals to ‘friends’ to speak up over coup

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo appeared in a video calling on his “friends” to “make noise” after military officers staged a coup.

“I’m sending a message to all friends that we have all over the world to tell them to make noise for… the people here who arrested me and my family,” he said in English, in the clip posted on social media.

Bongo, who was recorded while seated but looked clearly worried, said his son was in one location while his wife was “in another place.”

“I’m at the residence and nothing is happening, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m calling (on) you to make noise,” he said.