In a sudden and audacious move, military officers in Gabon declared they had seized power, placing Gabonese President Ali Bongo under house arrest. This abrupt decision comes hot on the heels of Bongo being declared the victor of a contentious presidential election, where he secured 64.27% of the votes.
Officers of the Gabonese Armed Forces justified their takeover, stating their intent was to “defend peace” and end Bongo’s “irresponsible, unpredictable governance.” Bongo, a stalwart in Gabonese politics since 2009, has faced a military coup before, back in 2019. As the situation escalated, the president made a plea through a video on social media, assuring his well-wishers that he was unharmed while admitting he was unaware of the complete scenario.
Brice Oligui Nguema, the individual behind the coup and head of Libreville’s presidential guard, mentioned in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde that President Bongo will “enjoy all his rights” during his detention. Contrarily, AFP reported Nguema to be the chosen leader of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions.” However, Nguema remained non-committal about his future role, emphasizing the necessity of discussions with the other generals.
In the international theater, the European Union defense ministers— led by the bloc’s foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, have scheduled a meet to discuss the brewing crisis in Gabon. Borrell expressed his concerns, stating, “If this is confirmed, it is another military coup which increases instability in the whole region.”
The military’s actions in Gabon are the most recent in a chain of coups across Africa, raising alarms about the continent’s stability. A similar event transpired in Niger, with soldiers refusing to reinstate democratic rule or release the dethroned President Mohamed Bazoum. The West African Regional bloc, ECOWAS, with France’s backing, has threatened military intervention in Niamey.
Borrell emphasized the gravity of the situation, especially given the political turbulence in the Central African Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, and now potentially Gabon. He stressed the need for the EU ministers to evaluate and adjust their policies concerning these nations.
“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 [EU] ministers… have to have a deep thought on what is going on there and how we can improve our policy in respect with these countries,” Borrell added.
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