The Bongo Dynasty through President Ali Bongo and his late father former President Omar Bongo had ruled Gabon for over half a century.
Gabon’s Bongo Dynasty has taken a severe blow to its political legacy following the forceful and illegal seizure of power by its military forces on Wednesday, 30th August 2023.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who’s family has ruled Gabon for 55years having taken over power through the former’s father, former President Omar Bongo in 1967, has been overthrown as president of Gabon barely a week after he had been announced winner of the country’s recently concluded General elections, under arguably mysterious circumstances, a decision which would have seen him begin his third term as president of Gabon.
He was first elected president in 2009 taking over swiftly from his father’s 41 years regime in an election that was prompted by Omar Bongo’s demise.
In a televised statement that aired live early Wednesday morning in Gabon, the country’s military, through a recently formulated group titled ‘Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI)’ announced that Ali Bongo’s regime is over.
“We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” an officer reading the statement said while flanked by about a dozen high level military officers. “To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled,” he added.
He went on to declare that all government institutions stand disbanded from that moment.
The coup in Gabon comes at a time when the continent is experiencing a recent successful coup in Niger, which was preceded by a coup in Burkina Faso, with stakeholders raising the alarm over the worrying trend of mutinies in Africa’s Sahel region. Experts speculate that the latest coup in Africa may have been inspired by a lack of effective response by the international community to return constitutional order in African countries whose governments have been overthrown.
Following Ali Bongo’s removal from power, General Oligui Nguema Brice who was “unanimously appointed chairman of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, chairman of the transition,” according to the official statement aired at 3:09am on Wednesday by the CRTI, and who was later declared Gabon’s Transitional President announced Ali Bongo’s fate.
“He has been placed in retirement. He has all his rights. He’s an ordinary Gabonese person, like everyone,” Nguema said.
Ali Bongo has ever since been under house arrest at the presidential residence. He somehow managed to record and share a video on the internet calling upon “our friends all over the world to make noise” in an attempt to rally supporters to mount pressure on the coup’s leaders for the sake of his family and claim to power, informing the world that he’s held captive in the ‘residence’ while his wife and son were also held captive separately elsewhere.
He was in for a rude awakening when civilians came out in droves on the city streets of Gabon’s capital city, Libreville, to support the coup with most of them expressing their relief for being ‘freed’ from the Bongo Dynasty’s tyrannical rule, alleging misappropriation of the country’s mineral resources returns, as well as suppression of political freedoms by Omar Bongo’s regime which undermined multiparty democracy with grave accusations of political assassinations by said regime to ensure Omar’s uninterrupted cling to power.
Former President Omar Bongo had been ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest rulers during his time in power, wealth which is speculated to have been unjustly gained through greedy exploitation of the country’s natural resources, with Oil and Ecotourism topping the list. Gabon is 4th largest producer of oil in Africa.
The seemingly popular opinion in Gabon notwithstanding, international bodies and leaders have condemned the illegal ouster of President Ali Bongo. Countries withing Africa like Nigeria and Egypt as well as other international players like the U.S.A, France, Spain, and Russia have expressed their concern for what has taken place in Gabon.
The African Union in it’s part came out to insist that the rule of law be observed, urging the leaders of the coup to return power to Gabon’s constitutional government, follow the right channels of settling election disputes, and ensure the safety and well-being of President Ali Bongo and his family.
“He calls on the national army and the security forces … to guarantee the personal safety of the president, the members of his family and those of his government.. ” said a spokesperson for Moussa Faki Mahamat, the head of the African Union Commission, and to “peacefully return to democratic constitutional order” he added.
It’s still early stages in Gabon’s fresh coup d’état. What will come of it is yet to fully reveal it’s form and shape. As leaders from both sides of the coup bring their heads together to chart the way forward, the rest of the stakeholders both near and far wait in anticipation for favourable outcomes, hopefully a future where safety and well-being of Gabon’s inhabitants and diaspora community’s livelihoods is preserved and protected, and ultimately the containment of the situation to avoid spillage and adverse effects for neighbouring countries, the continent at large, and international stakeholders.