October 4, 2023

By Yves Laurent Goma and Sam Mednick | Related Press

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — Mutinous troopers in Gabon proclaimed their republican guard chief because the nation’s chief Wednesday after inserting the just-reelected President Ali Bongo Ondimba underneath home arrest, alleging betrayal and big embezzlement throughout his long-time rule over the oil-rich Central African nation.

The coup leaders mentioned in an announcement on Gabon’s state TV that Gen. Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema had been “unanimously” designated president of a transitional committee to steer the nation. Oligui is a cousin of Bongo, who earlier Wednesday had been declared the winner of the nation’s newest presidential election following 55 years of rule by him and his late father.

In a video from detention in his residence, Bongo known as on individuals to “make noise” to assist him. However the crowds who took to the streets of the capital as a substitute celebrated the coup towards a dynasty accused of getting wealthy on the nation’s useful resource wealth whereas a lot of its residents wrestle.

“Thanks, military. Lastly, we’ve been ready a very long time for this second,” mentioned Yollande Okomo, standing in entrance of republican guard members who had helped stage the takeover.

Coup leaders mentioned there can be a curfew from 6 p.m. to six a.m. native time however that folks can be allowed to maneuver about freely throughout the day on Thursday.

“The president of the transition insists on the necessity to keep calm and serenity in our stunning nation … On the daybreak of a brand new period, we are going to assure the peace, stability and dignity of our beloved Gabon,” Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi mentioned on state TV Wednesday.

Oligui, the brand new navy chief, was once the bodyguard of Bongo’s father, the late President Omar Bongo, mentioned Want Ename a journalist with Echos du Nord, a neighborhood media outlet. Oligui additionally was head of the key service in 2019 earlier than turning into head of the republican guard.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, has served two phrases since coming to energy in 2009 after the demise of his father, who dominated the nation for 41 years, and there was widespread discontent along with his reign. One other group of mutinous troopers tried a coup in 2019 however was shortly overpowered.

The previous French colony is a member of OPEC, however its oil wealth is concentrated within the palms of some — and almost 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 had been out of labor in 2020, based on the World Financial institution. Its oil export income was $6 billion in 2022, based on the U.S. Power Data Administration.

9 members of the Bongo household, in the meantime, are underneath investigation in France, and a few face preliminary fees of embezzlement, cash laundering and different types of corruption, based on Sherpa, a French NGO devoted to accountability. Investigators have linked the household to greater than $92 million in properties in France, together with two villas in Good, the group says.

A spokesman for the coup leaders mentioned that Bongo’s “unpredictable, irresponsible governance” risked main the nation into chaos. In a later assertion, the coup leaders mentioned individuals across the president had been arrested for “excessive betrayal of state establishments, huge embezzlement of public funds (and) worldwide monetary embezzlement.”

Analysts warned that the takeover risked bringing instability, and will have extra to do with divisions among the many ruling elite than efforts to enhance the lives of peculiar Gabonese.

The Bongo household has been related to “systematic misappropriation of state revenues,” however the newest occasions “needs to be seen with nice warning, as they provide no assure of fine governance and democratic transition,” Sherpa mentioned in a press release.

The coup took place one month after mutinous troopers in Niger seized energy from the democratically elected authorities, and is the newest in a sequence of coups throughout West and Central Africa in recent times. The impunity these putschists loved might have impressed the troopers in Gabon, mentioned Maja Bovcon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, a threat evaluation agency.

In weekend elections, Bongo confronted an opposition coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former training minister. Minutes after Bongo was declared the winner, gunfire was heard within the capital, Libreville. Later, a dozen uniformed troopers appeared on state tv to announce that they had seized energy.

Libreville is a stronghold of the opposition, but it surely was unclear how the coup was seen within the countryside, the place extra individuals historically again Bongo.

The president pleaded for assist in a video displaying him sitting in a chair with a bookshelf behind him.

“I’m calling you to make noise, to make noise, to make noise actually,” he mentioned in English. The video was shared with The Related Press by BTP Advisers, a communications agency that helped the president with polling for the election.

Shortly after the video went public, individuals with Bongo had their telephones seized by troopers, mentioned Mark Pursey, the chief government officer of BTP Advisers. Bongo’s son and communications director had been being held at navy headquarters, Pursey mentioned.

U.N. Secretary-Common Antonio Guterres condemned the coup, and known as on navy leaders to make sure the protection of Bongo and his household, spokesman Stephane Dujarric mentioned.

Ossa, the opposition chief, advised The AP he wasn’t able to remark and was ready for the scenario to evolve.

The mutinous officers vowed to respect “Gabon’s commitments to the nationwide and worldwide group.” However the coup threatened to carry the financial system to a halt.

A person who answered the cellphone on the airport mentioned flights had been canceled Wednesday, and the personal intelligence agency Ambrey mentioned all operations on the nation’s primary port in Libreville had been halted. A number of French firms mentioned they had been suspending operations.

“France condemns the navy coup that’s underway in Gabon and is intently monitoring developments,” French authorities spokesperson, Olivier Veran, mentioned Wednesday.

France has maintained shut financial, diplomatic and navy ties with Gabon, and has 400 troopers stationed there for a navy coaching operation. The U.S. Africa Command mentioned it has no forces stationed within the Central African nation aside from on the U.S. Embassy.

In contrast to Niger and two different West African international locations run by navy juntas, Gabon hasn’t been wracked by jihadi violence and had been seen as comparatively steady.

White Home Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby mentioned the occasions in Gabon had been being adopted with “nice concern.” He mentioned it was too early to name it a part of a development or a “domino impact” in navy takeovers on the continent.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, nonetheless, cited a “contagion of autocracy we’re seeing unfold throughout our continent,” in a press release issued by his workplace. It mentioned he was conferring with different heads of state and the African Union, whose fee condemned the coup and known as for a return to “democratic constitutional order.”

Mednick reported from Dakar, Senegal. Related Press reporters Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Angela Charlton and Oleg Cetinic in Paris; and Jon Gambrell and Malak Harb in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Zane Irwin in Dakar, Senegal contributed.