Muslim President, Ali Bongo, is ousted by military coup in Gabon

The West African state of Gabon’s President, Ali Bongo, has seen his presidency toppled by a group of senior military officers, who seized power within minutes of him announcing that he had won a third term in the Central African state’s elections.

Gabon has for some time been regarded as ‘France’s back yard’ – a former French colony which has been ruled by a successive collection of dynastic dictatorships supported by Paris.

Officers responsible for the overthrow appear on TV declaring elections null and void

Ousters appear on TV and declare elections null and void

The overthrow, was explained on television by the officers  (Wednesday 30th August), who described themselves as representatives of ‘all Gabonese security and defence forces’ as they proclaimed the election results to be null and void. They further announced that all borders were closed until further notice and that all state institutions had been dissolved. Describing the elections as lacking transparency and credibility, the officers said:

‘Today the country is undergoing a severe institutional, political, economic, and social crisis. In the name of the Gabonese people…we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime’  

Eight military overthrows in Central and West Africa since 2020

Gabon represents the latest in a string of overthrows – Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which have seen former French colonies oust their pro-French leaderships. There have been eight military coups in Central and West Africa in the last 3 years, which include overthrows in Guinea and Chad.

The contagion will no doubt be causing enormous alarm and concerns to the Western powers, which have been hugely dependent on natural resources from the uranium, diamonds, lithium, bauxite and oil rich countries. They have also been weary of the growing influence of Russia and China in the region and the threat of an Islamist insurgency.

The Bongo dynasty has ruled Gambon for over 50 years with French assistance

The family of Ali Bongo has ruled Gabon for over half a century and successive attempts at military overthrow, have historically been put down with the help of French forces. The country is a predominantly Christian (mostly Catholic) country, although the Presidency has been held by Muslims (who make up only 10% of the population) since 1973, when political strongman, Omar Bongo converted to Islam.

A spokesperson for the French government, Olivier Veran responded to news of the overthrow by saying that France ‘condemns the coup that is underway” in Gabon. He added that France was following events closely and ‘reiterates its desire to see the results of the election respected, once they are known’

Spokesperson, Olivier Veran says the French government is following events closely in Gabon

Addressing a meeting of Foreign Ambassadors in France, French Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne commented that France is following the events in Gabon ‘with the greatest attention’.

Since its heyday when it was the predominant force in West Africa, France’s influence has been in long-term decline due to competition from China and most recently Russia. France has accused both countries of deliberately fomenting anti-French feeling across the region.

Russia’s Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov expressed concern as news of events in Gabon unfolded. He said:

‘We are deeply concerned about the situation in Gabon. We are closely following what is going on there’

Meanwhile on the streets of Gabon’s capital, Libreville, large crowds gathered and cheered the military as news of the overthrow became public.

Crowds cheer the military overthrow in Gabon’s capital, Libreville


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