Gabon’s military seizes power

Senior military officers announced late yesterday (Wednesday) they’ve taken over Gabon’s institutions and annulled the weekend’s contested election results, which had seen President Ali Bongo declared winner.

What’s happening? Troops have detained Bongo, closed the borders, imposed a curfew, and announced the coup leader (General Brice Oligui Nguema, head of the presidential guard) as transitional leader.

The ousted Bongo has released a video seeking international support, but jubilant crowds in the streets suggest the coup enjoys popular support.

Why? Folks were frustrated with Bongo and his family’s 55-year rule:

  • 🏡 The Bongos and other elites have reportedly amassed vast overseas real estate portfolios
  • 🛢️ A third of Gabon’s people still live below the poverty line, despite the OPEC member producing 200k barrels of oil per day, and
  • 🔎 These elections were plagued by delays, a lack of international observers, limits on some foreign broadcasts, and internet cuts.

So what’s the rest of the world saying? 

  • 🌍 The African Union has urged a “rapid return to democratic constitutional order
  • 🇫🇷 France (the former colonial power) has condemned the coup, calling for “the result of the election, when known” to be respected
  • 🇺🇸 The US says the coup is “deeply concerning”, and it supports “the people of Gabon and their demand for democratic governance
  • 🇨🇳 China has called on all sides to “resolve differences peacefully through dialogue” and “restore order at an early date”, and
  • 🇺🇳 The UN has flagged “deep concern” with the election, and “firmly” condemned the coup “as a means to resolve the post-electoral crisis

Intrigue’s take: So pretty much the whole world has condemned the methods. But it’s harder to find voices calling for Bongo’s reinstatement. That’s in stark contrast to the recent coup in Niger, where much of the world has continued to call for ousted President Bazoum’s return to power.

The difference? Probably legitimacy. Niger’s democratically-elected Bazoum still has some. Gabon’s decades-long Bongo family rule? Not so much.

Also worth noting:

  • Like the ousted Bongo, coup leader Nguema reportedly also has property in the US.
  • French President Macron visited Gabon earlier this year as part of a tour to revive France’s troubled ties with its former colonies.
  • French critical minerals player Eramet initially suspended operations in Gabon. French oil giant TotalEnergies hasn’t yet said whether its local operations have been impacted.
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