The Coup Attempt
Gunfire rattled through the center of Libreville, the capital of Gabon, minutes after President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s victory was declared. A group of uniformed soldiers, comprising members from the gendarme, republican guard, and other security forces, took over state television. They asserted their intention to dissolve all republic institutions, effectively overthrowing the current establishment.
Stable Yet Troubled
Unlike neighboring Niger and other West African countries plagued by jihadi violence, Gabon has enjoyed relative stability. However, recent months have seen a wave of military coups challenging governments with ties to France, its former colonizer. Gabon had remained largely unaffected by these developments. President Ali Bongo Ondimba had reassured the nation in his Independence Day speech that Gabon would not fall prey to destabilization attempts.
International Interests at Stake
Foreign oil companies like TotalEnergies and Maurel & Prom have vested interests in Gabon. These Western companies operate within the nation and are carefully monitoring the situation amid the coup attempt. Gabon’s political instability raises concerns for such international entities.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in late June garnered attention, particularly amidst rising anti-France sentiment in former colonies. The photographs of their handshake symbolized a nod towards cooperation between the two countries. However, with the recent coup, the future of this relationship remains uncertain.
Commitments to National and International Community
Despite their seizure of power, the coup leaders in Gabon have expressed their dedication to upholding the nation’s commitments to both the national and international community. The unfolding events will undoubtedly shape Gabon’s political landscape in the days to come.
Gabon’s Presidential Election: Bongo Seeks Third Term
Gabon’s President, Ali Bongo, is vying for a third term in the upcoming elections this weekend. Assuming power in 2009 after the passing of his father, Omar Bongo, who held the country’s reins for an astounding 41 years, Bongo has already served two terms. Despite facing opposition from an unlikely coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former education minister, Bongo remains determined to secure another victory.
Worryingly, in 2020, almost 40% of Gabonese individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 were unemployed, as reported by the World Bank. This staggering statistic further fuels tensions and adds to the potential for unrest following the election.
In light of these apprehensions, Gabon’s Communications Minister, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, has implemented strict measures to maintain order. A nightly curfew has been imposed from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and access to the internet has been indefinitely restricted to counter disinformation and curb calls for violence.
Regrettably, violence has marred every Gabonese election since the country’s return to a multi-party system in 1990. Following the 2016 election, clashes between government forces and protesters resulted in the loss of four lives, according to official records. However, opposition groups claim that the death toll was significantly higher.
Anticipating potential violence, many residents of the capital have sought refuge with family members in other parts of the country or have altogether left Gabon. Others have taken precautionary measures such as stockpiling food and enhancing security in their homes.
Gabon’s presidential election holds critical implications for the nation’s future. It remains to be seen whether the outcome will spark further unrest or usher in a period of stability and progress.