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    Military Coup Unfolds in Gabon- President Ali Bongo Detained and New Leadership Emerges

    Gabon Witnesses Political Turmoil as Military Assumes Control Amidst Electoral Controversy

    LIBREVILLE, August 31, 2023 (MegaloPreneur) – The strategic Central African nation of Gabon has been thrust into turmoil as military officers executed a swift takeover on Wednesday, orchestrating a political upheaval that culminated in the detention of President Ali Bongo and the assumption of power by a new leadership. This unprecedented turn of events unfolded just as the nation’s election body proclaimed Bongo’s controversial triumph for a third presidential term.

    Representing the nation’s armed forces, the military officers took to national television to proclaim the annulment of the election results, simultaneous closure of borders, and dissolution of state institutions. These decisive actions followed a tense electoral process poised to extend the Bongo family’s reign of over fifty years in power.

    In a rapid response, high-ranking generals convened to deliberate on the transitional leadership, arriving at a unanimous decision to appoint General Brice Oligui Nguema, a former head of the presidential guard. This momentous choice was unveiled through another televised address, underscoring the military’s commanding role in reshaping Gabon’s political landscape.

    While these events transpired, President Bongo found himself confined within his residence, leveraging a video statement to implore foreign allies for support on behalf of himself and his family. Expressing bewilderment at the unfolding events, he underscored the uncertain circumstances he was facing.

    The stark contrast between Bongo’s initial declaration as the election winner and his subsequent house arrest marked a dramatic shift. The initial announcement by the electoral commission had proclaimed him victorious in a contentious vote held just days earlier.

    In the streets of the capital city, Libreville, hundreds of jubilant citizens celebrated the military intervention, signaling a turning point after almost six decades of Bongo family rule. International reactions to the coup were swift: the United Nations, the African Union, and France, Gabon’s former colonial power with a military presence, all swiftly denounced the coup.

    This military incursion in Gabon is the eighth witnessed in West and Central Africa since 2020, becoming the second instance, following Niger, within the last two months. Similar power seizures have occurred in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad, collectively erasing democratic strides made since the 1990s and evoking apprehension among foreign stakeholders with vested interests in the region’s stability.

    Jules Lebigui, a 27-year-old unemployed citizen who joined the exuberant crowds in Libreville, exulted, “I march today with elation, as the Bongo dynasty’s reign of nearly 60 years comes to an end.”

    Assuming the presidency in 2009 following his father Omar’s demise, Ali Bongo’s leadership tenure has faced criticism for its limited efforts to equitably distribute the nation’s vast oil and mining wealth among its 2.3 million populace. The aftermath of his contested 2016 election victory witnessed violent unrest, while an attempted coup in 2019 further underscored the political volatility.

    Operating under the moniker of “The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions,” the military officers cited a dire convergence of institutional, political, economic, and social crises in the nation. In their proclamation, they denounced the credibility of the August 26 election, pointing to significant irregularities.

    The military’s decisive actions extended to the apprehension of the president’s son, Noureddin Bongo Valentin, and other associates, who were detained on charges of corruption and treason.

    As of now, Gabon’s official government response remains pending.

    COUP’s CONTAGION SPREADS

    The last public sighting of President Bongo occurred on the preceding Saturday when he cast his vote. He had appeared in relatively robust health compared to his frail appearances following a stroke in 2018.

    In contrast to Sahel countries like Niger, Gabon, situated further south along the Atlantic coast, had thus far avoided grappling with destabilizing Islamist insurgencies. However, this coup stands as an additional indicator of democratic regression within this volatile region.

    Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the current chair of the West African bloc ECOWAS, lamented the “contagion of autocracy” that is sweeping across the African continent. He affirmed collaborative efforts with other African leaders to devise a collective response to the Gabon crisis.

    Both U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the African Union voiced condemnation of the events, urging the military to ensure the safety of President Bongo and his family. China and Russia expressed hopes for a swift restoration of stability, while the United States characterized the situation as deeply concerning.

    French government spokesman Olivier Veran asserted, “We unequivocally condemn the military coup and reiterate our commitment to transparent and open elections.”

    The ramifications of this coup extend to France’s regional presence, as its military contingent of approximately 350 troops in Gabon now faces increased uncertainty. This follows the expulsion of French forces from Mali and Burkina Faso following coups in those nations over the past two years.

    French mining company Eramet (ERMT.PA), a prominent player in Gabon’s lucrative manganese sector, announced the suspension of its operations in response to the unfolding crisis.

    Gabon, a producer of around 200,000 barrels of oil daily, with key international players including TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) and Perenco, will likely experience ripple effects across its oil industry. The long-term economic ramifications of the coup remain a subject of heightened concern.

    Controversies surrounding the weekend election encompassed questions about transparency, marked by the absence of international observers, suspension of foreign broadcasts, and imposition of internet restrictions along with a night-time curfew after the vote. Bongo’s team dismissed allegations of electoral fraud.

    As of Wednesday, internet access was seemingly restored for the first time since the election. The junta confirmed this development along with the reinstatement of international broadcasts. However, the curfew would remain in place until further notice.

    In the moments leading to the coup announcement, the election authority declared Bongo the winner with 64.27% of the vote, while his primary challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, secured 30.77%.

    Amidst these rapidly evolving circumstances, Gabon’s dollar-denominated bonds exhibited volatility, initially plummeting by as much as 14 cents before recovering to a 9.5-cent decrease against the dollar.

    The geopolitical aftershocks of Gabon’s military coup reverberate both within the nation’s borders and across international spheres. As the situation unfolds, the world watches with bated breath, bearing witness to a pivotal moment in Gabon’s history and its regional implications.

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