Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

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DAKAR, Senegal — A gaggle of senior navy officers in Gabon mentioned Wednesday they had been seizing energy on this central African nation, overturning the outcomes of a disputed presidential election shortly after the electoral committee introduced that President Ali Bongo had received one other time period.

The Bongo household has led Gabon, an oil-rich nation with a inhabitants of about 2 million, for 56 years and has been accused by critics of abusing its place to build up large quantities of wealth. In a video on state tv, the senior officers declared that borders had been closed and state establishments together with the Senate, Nationwide Meeting and Constitutional Court docket, dissolved. Bongo, they mentioned in a subsequent assertion, was below home arrest.

“Within the title of the Gabonese individuals … we’ve got determined to defend the peace by placing an finish to the present regime,” one officer mentioned, studying a joint assertion on nationwide tv, surrounded by a couple of dozen others in navy fatigues. “We name on the inhabitants for calm and serenity.”

Navy mutiny in Niger comes after string of coups throughout area

Frustration with the Bongo regime ran deep, and up to date elections, together with the Aug. 26 election through which Bongo received a 3rd time period, had been marred by violence and allegations of rigging. As daybreak broke, social media confirmed crowds of Gabonese on the streets celebrating the coup, waving Gabon’s flag, hugging, dancing and singing the nationwide anthem.

“It’s too early to say its good or not good, however it may be good,” mentioned Paulette Oyane-Ondo, a Gabonese human rights lawyer. “If it implies that issues will change, will probably be good.”

The coup marks the newest in a outstanding string of mutinies in West and Central Africa, together with the latest navy takeover in Niger, which turned a pink line for democratically elected West African leaders. Since 2021, there have additionally been coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad and Sudan.

However analysts and different leaders within the area identified that Gabon’s coup was additionally completely different than others within the area in a number of methods. As compared with Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the place coups had been fueled by fears over spiraling violence linked to Islamic extremism, Gabon is peaceable and was seen as comparatively secure.

However the latest election was broadly seen as missing credibility, Oyane-Ondo mentioned, citing the federal government’s web shutdown and an absence of observers. Bongo was declared the winner early Wednesday, with election officers saying he had received 65 p.c of the vote, in comparison with 31 p.c for his principal challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa. Shortly after that announcement, the navy officers declared the coup.

Bongo, who was elected in 2009, and his father Omar Bongo, who dominated for 41 years earlier than that, had been key allies to France, Gabon’s former colonial energy, in a area through which anti-French sentiment is rising more and more prevalent and has been cited in a number of of the latest coups. As just lately as June, Bongo had met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

On Wednesday, Olivier Véran, a spokesman for the French authorities, mentioned that France “condemns the navy coup underway in Gabon” and is “monitoring developments within the scenario with nice consideration.”

France has additionally mentioned that it doesn’t settle for the coup in Niger, the place the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum stays below home arrest. The Financial Neighborhood of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-member bloc to which Niger belonged, has threatened navy intervention in Niger to revive democracy. Analysts and regional leaders mentioned such a response is unlikely in Gabon which isn’t a part of that group.

Human rights activist and former Nigerian senator Shehu Sani praised the coup on X, the platform previously often known as Twitter, saying that Gabon’s “father to Son Dictatorship has been overthrown.”

“5 a long time of 1 household rule isn’t a democracy,” mentioned Sani. “That is what occurs when democracy is suffocated.”

The Gabonese navy officers who introduced the coup known as themselves the “Committee of the Transition and the Restoration of Establishments” and mentioned that “irresponsible, unpredictable governance” had resulted in a deterioration of social cohesion. The officers mentioned within the video that they revered Gabon’s “commitments to the worldwide neighborhood.”

Neither Bongo nor his authorities reacted to the information early Wednesday.

Gabon foils coup try in opposition to absent president

In 2019, Gabon’s authorities foiled an tried coup in opposition to the president, who had suffered a stroke earlier that 12 months and left the nation for an prolonged interval for remedy.

Oyane-Ondo, the human rights lawyer, famous that this coup seemed to be considerably extra organized than the 2019 try, which was rapidly shut down by authorities. On the streets in Libreville, she mentioned, there was shock and elation.

“Individuals are exterior within the streets dancing, and they’re very pleased,” she mentioned, “however it’s too early to inform the actual imaginative and prescient of the scenario.”

The European Union’s international coverage chief, Josep Borrell, mentioned Wednesday that the bloc’s international ministers would focus on the developments in Gabon, which he famous had been a part of a “very troublesome scenario” within the area, together with Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

“The ministers,” he mentioned at a gathering of E.U. protection ministers in Toledo, Spain, “must have a deep thought on what’s going on there and the way we will enhance our coverage in respect to those international locations … It is a large subject for Europe.”

Bisset reported from London and Ombuor from Nairobi.

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