In a startling coup on Wednesday, military troops in Gabon said they were taking over from President Ali Bongo Ondimba, endangering the family’s 50-year dominance of the country in central Africa.

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There were cheers and rumors of gunfire on the streets of the capital as men in army uniforms emerged on national television to proclaim the president’s house arrest during the military coup, but censure abroad.

Gabon president

Ali Bongo Ondimba is being held under house arrest, it has been brought to the attention of the country and the world, a junta official stated on state television on Wednesday morning.

The statement stated that the deposed president is accompanied by his “family and doctors.”

Nourredin Bongo Valentin, the president’s son, was detained along with six other people for “high treason,” according to the junta’s spokeswoman, who stated hours later that authorities will look into the allegations.

Following his house arrest, the president is seen in a video requesting his “friends” to “make noise,” according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency.

Sitting in what seems to be a library, Bongo continued, “I am at the residence. Nothing is occurring, and I am clueless as to what is going on.

It wasn’t immediately obvious in what settings the movie had been made.

In the meantime, AFP aired video of troops in the coup leader’s hometown of Libreville, Libreville, rejoicing. He was observed riding on the shoulders of soldiers while they yelled “president.”

Shortly after President Ali Bongo Ondimba, commonly known as Ali Bongo, was declared the winner of a closely contested election, the result was announced.

The declaration was made during a live broadcast on news station Gabon24 by the officers, who identified themselves as representatives of the “defense and security forces” in the nation. on X, previously known as Twitter, watched it.

Gabon

The broadcast included a military commander saying, “CTRI [the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions] has decided to defend peace by putting an end to the government in place on behalf of the Gabonese people and the guardian of institutional safety.

The military official declared in the broadcast that the election results would be nullified and that the country’s borders would be closed.

institution dissolved

The government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic and Social and Environmental Council, and the Elections Council of Gabon are among the institutions of the republic that have been dissolved, the officer declared.

Following the appearance on television, a Reuters reporter reported hearing loud shooting in the capital city of Libreville.

Videos and uploaded on social media show people in Gabon dancing and having a good time on the city’s streets.

In a video, people can be heard waving the Gabon flag and cheering, “Liberated!” in the Nzeng Ayong district of the city, alongside army soldiers.

From all across the world, criticism started to flow in. According to government spokesman Olivier Veran, France has denounced the “military coup d’état that is taking place in Gabon.”

While the French foreign ministry recommended its residents in Gabon to “avoid or limit” travel, the US Embassy advised its Americans in the city to seek refuge.

Nine coups have occurred in former French colonies in the last three years, undermining democratic advancements in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Tunisia, and now Gabon.

Bongo’s extended rule

Following a general election marred by delays and criticized as fraudulent by the opposition, Gabon’s electoral commission announced earlier on Wednesday that Bongo had won the presidency with 64.27% of the vote, according to Reuters.

According to the electoral body, Albert Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s major rival, finished in second place with 30.77%. Ondo Ossa’s team had disproved Bongo’s claims of electoral fraud.

Ali Bongo, 64, succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, who had held the position for over 42 years before passing away in 2009 after a heart collapse while undergoing treatment for intestinal cancer in a Spanish clinic.

Seven years after the nation’s independence from France, in 1967, the elder Bongo took office.

He imposed a one-party regime for many years and only permitted multi-party control in 1991, yet his party still held power. He dominated the little country with an iron fist.

According to the Gabonese embassy website in the US, Ali Bongo started his political career in 1981 and served as foreign minister and a congressman from 1989 to 1991. Before taking office as president in 2009, he served as defense minister from 1999.

contest for office

Ali Bongo had 18 opponents in this week’s election, six of whom endorsed Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, to help the campaign become more competitive. In the 2.3 million-strong oil-rich but impoverished country, many members of the opposition were calling for change.

International observers complained of a lack of openness as tensions rose amid worries about violence following the voting on Saturday.

Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit organization, criticized the Gabonese government for impeding international media coverage of the election before it took place.

Josep Borrell, in charge of the EU’s foreign policy, stated on Wednesday that “increased instability in the entire region” would result “if (the situation in Gabon) is confirmed (to be) yet another military coup.”

Before an EU defense ministerial meeting in Toledo, Spain, Borrell told reporters, “It’s an issue that will be put on the table and we will discuss it.”

“The whole area starting with Central African Republic, then Mali, then Burkina Faso, now Niger, maybe Gabon, it’s a very difficult situation,” said Borrell.

This is not the first power struggle or unrest in Gabon over Bongo’s authority, which has constantly been criticized.

When violent street protests broke out in 2016 in opposition to Bongo’s controversial re-election for a second term, the parliament building was set on fire. The authorities at the time blocked internet connection for a number of days.

In 2019, there was an attempt at a coup when a group of troops and military officers seized the offices of the state radio and television, kidnapped the workers, and announced they had taken over the country.

Before Gabonese defense and security personnel intervened to put an end to the takeover and free the hostages, they made reference to their displeasure with Bongo as president and promised to “restore democracy” in the nation. As a consequence, eight military commanders were detained and two troops were slain.

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