Ali Bongo Ondimba, the outgoing Gabonese president and candidate to succeed him in the presidential election on 26 August 2023, at his campaign rally in Ntoum (42 km from Libreville) on 20 August 2023.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, the outgoing Gabonese president and candidate to succeed him in the presidential election on 26 August 2023, at his campaign rally in Ntoum (42 km from Libreville) on 20 August 2023.

Photo by: Malkolm M./Afrikimages Agency/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.

Gabon Military Officers Announce Coup Attempt on National TV

Gabon's senior military officers, in a televised announcement on Wednesday, asserted their authority by annulling election results moments after President Ali Bongo secured a third term.

In a televised address, a group of high-ranking military officers in Gabon declared on Wednesday their intention to "put an end to the current regime" and nullify the results of the recent national elections. This announcement followed the declaration by the country's election authority of President Ali Bongo Ondima's victory for another term in office.

The coup leaders revealed that President Bongo had been placed under house arrest, reportedly "surrounded by his family and doctors," and that one of his sons had been arrested on charges of "treason."

President Ali Bongo has held power for 14 tumultuous years, following in the footsteps of his father, who ruled the nation for more than four decades. French news agency AFP reported sporadic gunfire in areas outside Bongo's residence in the capital, Libreville, during the officers' announcement.

If this coup attempt succeeds, it would mark the eighth such event in West and Central Africa since 2020. Other high-ranking military officers have seized power in countries like Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

Gabon, with a relatively small population of 2.3 million, boasts one of Africa's highest per capita GDPs, primarily due to its oil revenue. President Ali Bongo has been seen as a close ally of France. This coup attempt represents a significant development in the West African region, which has seen a wave of political upheaval in recent years.

In a speech on Gabon's Independence Day on August 17, President Bongo vowed not to allow his country to become a hostage to destabilization efforts, saying, "While our continent has been shaken in recent weeks by violent crises, rest assured that I will never allow you and our country Gabon to be hostages to attempts at destabilization. Never."

If successful, the overthrow of President Bongo would end his family's 56-year grip on power in Gabon. Unlike some other West African nations under military rule, Gabon has largely avoided jihadi violence and has been viewed as relatively stable. However, economic and social challenges, including high youth unemployment, have left many disillusioned.

Gabon is also a member of the OPEC oil cartel, producing approximately 181,000 barrels of crude oil daily, making it the eighth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the context of growing anti-French sentiments in many former colonies, President Bongo met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in late June, underscoring the complex dynamics at play. France has around 400 troops stationed in the country.

The general election in Gabon on Saturday has once again raised serious concerns about the electoral process, echoing previous instances in the country's political history.

Albert Ondo Ossa, the main opposition candidate, voiced complaints that numerous polling stations did not have ballot papers featuring his name. Furthermore, the coalition he represents reported that the names of candidates who had withdrawn from the presidential race were still present on the ballot sheet.

Reporters Without Borders, a prominent campaign group, decried the fact that foreign media outlets were barred from entering the country to cover the election.

President Ali Bongo Ondima's two previous election victories were marred by allegations of fraud from his opponents. This time, controversial alterations were made to voting papers mere weeks before election day.

Ali Bongo ascended to power in 2009, succeeding his father, Omar, upon his death. In 2018, President Bongo suffered a stroke, which incapacitated him for nearly a year and prompted calls for him to consider stepping aside. The subsequent year saw a failed coup attempt, resulting in the imprisonment of mutinous soldiers.