Military officers seize power in Gabon following disputed elections

The military announcing the seizure of power in Gabon. Screenshot from the Gabon24 YouTube channel. Fair use.

After rejecting the outcome of Gabon's general elections (presidential, legislative, and local) held on August 26, 2023, military officers have seized power, thus bringing an end to the Bongo family's 55-year reign. Omar Bongo was president from 1967 to 2009, and his son Ali Bongo was president from 2009 to 2023.

To learn more about these elections, read: Gabon's historic triple high-stake elections 

From the outset, these elections were criticized for new electoral laws and measures facilitating fraud and Ali Bongo's reelection for a third term.

The election results were declared first thing on August 30, 2023. According to the Gabonese Election Centre (CGE), former president, Ali Bongo, won with 64.27 percent of the vote against opposition candidate for the Alternance 2023 Platform, Albert Ondo Ossa, who came second with just 30.77 percent.

On Gabon 1ère, a Gabonese national television station broadcast by France 24, the CGE Chairman, Michel Stéphane Bonda, declared:

Ali Bongo a battu, dans un scrutin à un seul tour, son principal rival Albert Ondo Ossa, qui n'a recueilli que 30,77 % des voix, ainsi que 12 autres candidats qui n'ont récolté que des miettes. Au terme de la centralisation des résultats (…) est élu Bongo Ondimba Ali avec 293 919 voix soit 64,27 %”. Le taux de participation a été de 56,65 %.

In a single round of voting, Ali Bongo beat his main rival, Albert Onda Ossa, who only received 30.77 percent of the vote. Twelve other candidates picked up the remaining votes. Once the results were tallied (…) Ali Bongo was elected with 293,919 votes, which equates to 64.27 percent. There was also a voter turnout of 56.65 percent.

Election annulment and state institution dissolution

Before most Gabonese citizens found out the results confirming Bongo's reelection, military officers from the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), stormed the CGE premises, thus forcing Bonda to suspend the announcement of Bongo's victory. The election annulment, dissolution of State institutions and border closures were later announced publicly, as can be seen on this Guardian video on YouTube:

Military officers stated they were exercising their responsibilities towards the people and acting to prevent a crisis like that of 2016, when Ali Bongo was reelected for a second term. At that time, when Bongo faced opposition candidate Jean Ping, post-electoral violence left 3 dead and 105 injured, according to government figures.

General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema, who heads the CTRI, is the country's new leader, as announced by news outlet, LSI Africa:

🚨🇬🇦General Brice Clothaire Oligui Nguema, who trained at the Meknes Royal Military Academy in Morocco, is Gabon's new leader.                                                                                 — LSI AFRICA (@lsiafrica) August 30, 2023

The coup appears to have gained the support of some of the country's population, with some X (formerly Twitter) users even noting scenes of joy and jubilation:

Gabonese citizens are in high spirits🇬🇦


— Lukeni (@Kemou_kongo) August 30, 2023

A Gabonese journalist, contacted by Global Voices on WhatsApp, who would like to remain anonymous, explains:

Je pense que le coup d’État a été soigneusement et minutieusement préparé. Nous avons constaté qu'il n'y a pas eu de contestations dans les rangs des corps habillés, ce qui veut dire qu'ils se sont mis d'accord avant d'agir. Ils dénoncent des fraudes et des résultats non conformes au désir de la population. Les militaires sensibilisent les populations à garder le calme. Quant aux opposants, ils sont gardés en sécurité.

I believe this coup d'état was carefully and meticulously planned. This was not challenged within the armed forces, which means they agreed before acting. They criticize the fraud and results that don't meet the public's wishes. The military is urging the public to remain calm and opponents are being protected.

While the CTRI announced the dissolution of state institutionsanother statement was released on the arrest of some members of the president's inner circle.

A wave of arrests

Global news agency Agence France Presse posted a YouTube video showing Ali Bongo being arrested and put under house arrest by the military. Media specialist, Jean-Pierre Ekanga, also tweeted a video of Ali Bongo appealing for help:

I'm Ali Bongo Odimba, President of Gabon. I would like to send a message to our friends throughout the world and ask them to make noise, to make noise. Because these people have arrested me …

— Jean-Pierre EKANGA (@JJPJERRY) August 30, 2023

Some of those in the ousted president's inner circle have also been arrested, as Gilles, a Malian citizen living in Paris, tweeted.

🇬🇦Ali Bongo, his family and doctors are under house arrest.
Noureddine Bongo Valentin
Yann Ghislain Ngoulou
Mohammed Ali Saliou
Abdul Osseyni
Jessy Ela Ekogha
Steve Nzeko Djeko
Siriak Vurandjami

— Gilles-P.|L. (@PerleIrradiante) August 30, 2023

A Gabonese newspaper editor-in-chief, contacted by media outlet Bénin Intelligent, confirmed this:

Ceux-ci ont été arrêtés pour haute trahison, détournement des deniers publics, faux et usage de faux, falsification de la signature du président de la République, trafic de drogue. Ils sont tous proches du président, travaillant à la présidence de la République.

These individuals have been arrested for high treason, embezzlement of public funds, forgery and the use of forgeries, falsifying the president's signature and drug trafficking. They are all members of the president's inner circle, working within the President's Office.

Ali Bongo's son, Noureddin Valentin Bongo, who is a French–Gabonese dual citizen, is among those arrested in Bongo's inner circle, as BrazzaNews reports on Twitter:

Gabon: Ali Bongo's Son Arrested. The military has arrested Noureddin Valentin Bongo, for “high treason”. He is one of the ousted president's sons. @NoureddinBV

— BrazzaNews (@brazzanews) August 30, 2023

No condemnation

The recent coups in French-speaking countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), like Burkina-Faso, Mali, Guinea, and, most recently, Niger, all sparked strong reactions and condemnation on all sides of the international community. However, the first such coup in a French-speaking Central African country is yet to receive such condemnation.

To learn more about the latest coup d'état in the ECOWAS, read: Niger's military coup sees President Mohamed Bazoum overthrown

Although France 24 has compiled a list of international reactions, only the European Commission and China have reacted. France is closely monitoring the situation:

For Pan-Africanists and defenders of African sovereignty, like Kemi Seba, head of the Urgences Panafricanistes NGO, this coup d'état is another victory for the supporters of a free Africa. Kemi Seba thereby urges the new leader to follow the example of military officers in Mali and Burkina Faso alike.


General Brice Oligui Nguema, head of the Republican Guard, is the coup's leader. According to our sources, he will undoubtedly be the one to lead the transition that will likely last two to three years.
We urge him to follow the example of Mali, Niger and Burkina-Faso, but mostly to listen to the people's wishes. He should be an Ibrahim Traoré or an Assimi Goita, but not a Damiba …

— Kemi Seba Officiel (@KemiSeba1) August 30, 2023

With the former president's forced retirement and the subsequent end to the Bongo family's political dynasty, a new chapter has just begun in Gabon's political history. The question now is whether the CTRI will prove itself capable, in the coming weeks, of governing, maintaining relative social peace and providing a transition model while awaiting fresh elections.

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