A few minutes after the announcement of his victory, the president was “retired” by his military.
The scenario was predictable until the proclamation of the victory of Ali Bongo, outgoing president and son of Omar Bongo. Father and son “reigned” for more than 55 years over this small oil-rich Central African country. And the power of the clan was to continue for five more years after the presidential election organized on August 26.
Officially, the outgoing president won the election with just over 64% of the votes. The main opposition candidate, Albert Ondo Ossa, designated candidate of a broad political platform 7 days before the election, would have received only 33% of the votes, according to the figures announced Wednesday at 3 a.m. The opposition candidate, who had continued to denounce “frauds orchestrated by the Bongo camp” didn’t have time to react. The soldiers, led by the Republican Guard, were invited on the antennas of Gabon24 television installed in the premises of the presidency of the republic to announce that they had put “end to the regime in place” in Gabon, suspended all institutions and closed the borders. Some time later, these soldiers announced that they had placed President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest. Several personalities close to the presidency, including ministers and a son of the head of state, were arrested,
A surprise coup?
“I don’t think this move was planned at length.” explains from Libreville Marc Ona, human rights activist and real itch for Gabonese power. “It was unimaginable, especially coming from the Republican Guard. General Brice Oligui Nguema, already presented as the new strongman, was the securocrat of the Bongo regime. When we went to vote on Saturday, the Republican Guard was deployed, it was they who ensured that the ballot stuffing went smoothly. We had the feeling of starting again with the same scenario as in 2016. The Gabonese people vote, the government fiddles and it is announced that Bongo is extending his lease. Everything seemed written”, continues our man who further explains that he was convinced of this scenario when he heard the first shots at around 4 a.m. “I thought the soldiers were celebrating the victory of their favorite.”
The same actors
“What must be noted is that once again it is the Republican Guard which is at the forefront of the movement. explains an African diplomat. “Like in Guinea, like in Mali or Niger. In fact, it is the only military structure that is well equipped and well structured. It is the praetorian guard of heads of state”, he continues. “It clearly has the capabilities to carry out such operations and enough aura to unite the other armed forces. Some African presidents will have to quickly review their security arrangements”.
A different context
“These soldiers anticipated anger that would be unmanageable,” continues our diplomat. “The first returns from the country show that the population was up against a totally worn-out, discredited Bongo regime. The state of health of the president, who suffered a stroke a few years ago, is an essential element of this mood swing. continues a Belgian who lives part of the year in this Central African country. “There are demonstrations in support of the military in several places in the capital and elsewhere in the country. There are a few bumps, but it’s very, very light.” “It is a movement that can be described as 100% Gabonese. It is not in reaction to France, the West or anything else. The Gabonese no longer wanted to be represented by this weakened gentleman. This puppet in the hands of the members of his family and his inner circle who happily plundered the state coffers. All Gabonese people knew that those close to him forged the president’s signature. adds Marc Ona. “The ruling party should have chosen another candidate to keep the reins of the country. The soldiers understood that this discontent would last and that it could carry them away. explains the African diplomat.
A form of emulation
After Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger, Gabon is the 5th former French colony hit by a coup d’état in less than 3 years. “It’s clear there’s a ripple effect. As I already said previously, all these soldiers talk to each other. Gabon is certainly further south, but they all have links,” according to our African diplomat. “The Gabonese often consider their soldiers as wimps,” continues a resident of Libreville. “We hear reflections on the courage of the soldiers of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. This must work for our soldiers,” he explains. “We can speak of a form of emulation which does not suit the powers in place,” smiles our interlocutor who rejects the idea of an understanding between the political opposition and the military. In this context of regional and continental overheating, the condemnations of the UN, the African Union or France will obviously have no impact. “They will even strengthen the status of the putschists,” predicts our resident of Libreville who was waiting for announcements from the military on Wednesday evening. “I hope they will not try to cling to power. That they will quickly organize new elections. The example of other countries affected by coups d’état does not give cause for optimism.”