Gabon army seizes power, places Ali Bongo under house arrest

Gabon army, Ali Bongo

Gabon army seizes power, places Ali Bongo under house arrest


Gabon’s President Ali Bongo has issued a heartfelt plea for assistance after being deposed by the military in a coup and subsequently placed under house arrest. Speaking from what he claimed was his residence, he urged his supporters to “make your voices heard.”


Earlier, army officers made an appearance on television to announce that they had taken control of the government. They declared the nullification of the election results from the previous Saturday, which had declared Mr. Bongo as the victor.

The opposition alleged the election was marred by fraud. Furthermore, the officers disclosed that they had detained one of Mr. Bongo’s sons on charges of treason.


If this coup were successful, it would bring an end to the 55-year reign of the Bongo family in Gabon. The country, a significant oil producer in Africa, boasts vast forested areas covering nearly 90% of its land. Interestingly, it became a Commonwealth member in June 2022, distinguishing itself as one of the few non-British colony members.


Mr. Bongo confirmed his house arrest in a video message, expressing confusion about the whereabouts of his family members. He spoke in English, not the official language of Gabon—French—and beseeched for help.


A communications company that had worked with the presidency during the election reached out to the BBC to validate the authenticity of the footage. The company shared that it had been directed by Mr. Bongo’s office to circulate the video.


The coup leaders announced on television that they were annulling the election results and dismantling “all institutions of the republic.” They justified their actions by citing the country’s deteriorating social cohesion due to irresponsible governance.

They believed this could lead to chaos. The coup leaders proposed that General Brice Oligui Nguema, head of the presidential guard, would succeed Mr. Bongo. They also promised accountability through an investigation into specific officials’ actions. Additionally, the country’s borders were temporarily closed.


This coup marks the eighth instance in the last three years where former French colonies in Africa have experienced such upheaval. Unlike previous instances concentrated in the Sahel region, this one is more southern. In Gabon, there appears to be a resounding desire for change from the Bongo family’s longstanding rule.


The French government criticized the coup, urging respect for the election results. However, the influence of France in Africa has waned, potentially emboldening the military to intervene without anticipating French support.


Mr. Bongo’s use of English in his video suggests he was addressing the Commonwealth, hinting at international backing. Russia, China, and the European Union have also voiced their concerns.


Following the election, internet access was temporarily suspended for security reasons but was later reinstated. A curfew has been put in place.


Just as in past elections, there were serious concerns about the fairness of Saturday’s vote. The main opposition candidate, Albert Ondo Ossa, raised issues about missing ballot papers bearing his name. The coalition he represented claimed that names of withdrawn candidates remained on the ballot.

Reporters Without Borders noted that foreign media were barred from covering the election on Gabonese soil.

Mr. Bongo’s previous election victories were contested due to fraud allegations. This time, contentious changes to voting procedures were introduced shortly before the election.


Mr. Bongo ascended to power following his father’s death in 2009. In 2018, he suffered a stroke that incapacitated him for nearly a year, prompting calls for his resignation. The subsequent year, a failed coup attempt led to the imprisonment of mutinying soldiers.


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