Gabon military appoints army chief after arresting president, alleging corruption
Libreville, Gabon — Rebel soldiers in Gabon called their republican guard chief the country’s leader on Wednesday after they placed newly re-elected President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest, alleging betrayal and the great horror when he ruled for a long time in the Central African country full of oil.
The leaders of the coup said in a message on Gabon state television that General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” elected president of a transitional committee to lead the country. Oligui is a cousin of Bongo, who was announced earlier on Wednesday as the winner of the country’s latest presidential election after he and his late father had ruled for 55 years.
In a video from his house arrest, Bongo called on people to “make noise” to support him. But the crowd that took to the streets of the capital celebrated the coup against a dynasty that is accused of getting rich on the wealth of the country’s resources while many of its citizens were struggling.
“Thank you, army. Finally, we have been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing in front of members of the republican guard who helped in the takeover.
Coup leaders said there would be a curfew between 6pm and 6am local time but people would be allowed to move around freely throughout the day on Thursday.
“The president of the movement insists that we must maintain calm and tranquility in our beautiful country … At the beginning of a new era, we will guarantee the peace, stability and dignity of our beloved Gabon,” Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi said on state TV on Wednesday.
Oligui, the new military leader, used to be the bodyguard of Bongo’s father, the late President Omar Bongo, said Desire Ename a journalist with Echos du Nord, a local media group. Oligui was also the head of the secret service in 2019 before becoming the head of the Republic guard.
Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with the rule his Another group of rebel soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but were quickly overpowered.
The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few – and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were unemployed in 2020, according to the World Bank. Its oil export revenue would be $6 billion in 2022, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embalming, money laundering and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability. Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two houses in Nice, the agency says.
A spokesman for the coup leaders said Bongo’s “unprecedented, irresponsible rule” threatened to plunge the country into chaos. In a later statement, the leaders of the coup said that people around the president were arrested for “high treason of state institutions, serious damage to public funds (and) international financial disrespect.”
Analysts warned that the takeover risked bringing instability, and could have more to do with divisions among the ruling elite than efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Gabonese.
The Bongo family has been associated with “systematic misappropriation of state revenues,” but the latest developments should be viewed “with caution, as they offer no guarantee of good governance and democratic movement,” Sherpa said in a statement.
The coup came about a month after rebel soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government, and is the latest in a series of coups across west and central Africa. a few years. The ban enjoyed by these spies may have led to the soldiers in Gabon, said Maja Bovcon, a senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk assessment company.
In weekend elections, Bongo faced an opposition coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former education minister. Minutes after Bongo was declared the winner, gunfire was heard in the capital, Libreville. Later, twelve uniformed soldiers appeared on state television to announce that they had seized power.
Libreville is a stronghold for the opposition, but it was not clear how the coup was seen in the country, where more people traditionally supported Bongo.
The president pleaded for support in a video that showed him sitting in a chair with a bookshelf behind him.
“I want you to make a noise, make a noise, really make a noise,” he said in English. The video was shared with the Associated Press by BTP Advisers, a communications firm that helped the president campaign for the election.
Soon after the video went public, soldiers seized Bongo’s phones, said Mark Pursey, chief executive of BTP Advisors. Bongo’s son and a communications director were being held at military headquarters, Pursey said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the coup, and called on military leaders to ensure the safety of Bongo and his family, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Ossa, the leader of the opposition, told the AP that he was not ready to comment and that he was waiting for the situation to improve.
The rebel officials vowed to honor “Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.” But the coup threatened to stop the economy.
A man who answered the phone at the airport said flights had been canceled on Wednesday, while private intelligence firm Ambrey said operations at the country’s main port in Libreville had been halted. Several French companies said they were suspending operations.
“France condemns the ongoing military coup in Gabon and is closely monitoring developments,” said French government spokesman Olivier Veran on Wednesday.
France has maintained close economic, diplomatic and military ties with Gabon, and 400 soldiers are stationed there for military training. The US Africa Command said it has no forces in the Central African country except at the US Embassy.
Unlike Niger and two other West African countries run by military juntas, Gabon had not been engulfed by jihadi violence and was seen as relatively stable.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the events in Gabon were being followed with “deep concern.” He said it was too early to call it part of a movement or “domino effect” in the military takeover of the continent.
Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, however, said there was “a contagion of autocracy that we are seeing spreading across our continent,” in a statement issued by his office. and he called for a return to a “democratic constitutional order.”
Mednick reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press Correspondents Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Angela Charlton and Oleg Cetinic in Paris; and Jon Gambrell and Malak Harb in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and added by Zane Irwin in Dakar, Senegal.