Military officers seize power in Gabon

Ali Bongo Ondimba
Ali Bongo Ondimba has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father. Photo: AFP

Mutinous soldiers in Gabon announced that the head of the country’s elite republican guard Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema would lead the Central African country, hours after saying they had placed the country’s newly re-elected President under house arrest.

The announcement of the takeover in Gabon came shortly after election results were announced on August 30 saying incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba had been re-elected, amid reports of irregularities at the polls.

Oligui is the cousin of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who had been declared the winner of the country’s presidential election.

The military takeover in Gabon came on the heels of Niger last month, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Chad, Guinea, Sudan and Mali in the years prior to that. 

Key facts on Gabon

• The Republic of Gabon is situated on the western shores of Central Africa. 

• Gabon became independent from France in 1960.

• It is bordered by the Gulf of Guinea to the west, the Republic of Congo to the east and south, Cameroon to the north and Equatorial Guinea to the northwest. 

• Located on the equator, Gabon covers a gross area of approximately 268,000 square kilometres, while its population is about 2.1 million.

• Gabon’s capital city is Libreville. 

• The country’s currency is the CFA franc, a currency used by five other African nations. 

• The country’s official language is French.

• Gabon’s economy is dominated by oil.

• In addition to being an oil producer and net oil exporter, Gabon possesses abundant primary materials, and enjoys growing agriculture and tourism sectors. Other notable exports are timber, uranium and manganese.

• Gabon’s oil industry started gaining attention in 1931 when several oil deposits were discovered in neighbouring regions of Libreville.

• In addition to the oil industry, Gabon’s location overlooking the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean has led to the emergence of another important economic sector – the fishing industry.

• Gabon is a member of the African Union and began a two-year term as a Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council in 2022. 

• Gabon works closely with other countries in the Congo Basin region to address deforestation and other environmental challenges. 

• Gabon is also a member of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

• Gabon became a full member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1975 but terminated its membership in 1995. It re-joined the organisation on July 1, 2016.

Political scenario in Gabon

• Within a year of independence, the government changed from a parliamentary to a presidential system, and Gabriel Leon M’ba won the first presidential election in 1961. 

• El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba — one of the longest ruling heads of state in history — was M’ba’s vice president and assumed the presidency after M’ba’s death in 1967. 

• Bongo went on to dominate the country’s political scene for four decades (1967-2009). 

• In 1968, he declared Gabon a single-party state and created the Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG), which remains the predominant party in Gabonese politics today. 

• In the early 1990s, he reintroduced a multi-party system under a new constitution after he was confronted with growing political opposition. 

• Following President Bongo’s death in 2009, a new election brought his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, to power.

• Bongo, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with his reign.

• Bongo’s popularity had worn thin amid claims of corruption, sham elections and a failure to spend more of Gabon's oil and mineral wealth on the country’s poor.

• Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.

• The coup came about one month after mutinous soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government, and is the latest in a series of coups across West and Central Africa in recent years.

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