GABON. COUP D’ETAT, PEOPLE CELEBRATE IN LIBREVILLE
(August 31st 2023)
LIBREVILLE. On the night of August 30, in Gabon, a bloodless coup put an end to the long reign of the Bongos, the family that led the Equatorial African country since 1967.
At 5 in the morning, a dozen Republican Guard, Police and Army officers appear on TV to announce:
“Our beautiful country, Gabon, has always been a haven of peace. Today it is going through a serious institutional, political, economic and social crisis.
It is evident that the organization of the electoral deadlines, known as the general elections of August 26, 2023, didn’t get the conditions for a transparent, credible and inclusive scrutiny, much desired by all Gabonese. Added to this is irresponsible and unpredictable governance, which translates into a continuous deterioration of social cohesion, risking leading the country into chaos.
Today, August 30, 2023, we, the Defense and Security Forces, meeting in the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), on behalf of the people, guarantors of the protection of institutions, have decided to defend the peace by ending the regime in effect.
To this end, the general election of 26 August 2023 and its results are cancelled. Borders are closed until further notice. All the institutions of the Republic are dissolved, in particular the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, the Electoral Centre.
We invite the people, the communities of sister countries settled in Gabon and our fellow citizens of the diaspora to calm and serenity. We reaffirm our commitment to meet Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.
People of Gabon, the time has finally come for our ascent to happiness. May God and the spirits of our ancestors bless Gabon. Honor and loyalty to the homeland.”
A few hours later, another statement: the military announce that the deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba is under house arrest, while various figures of the regime, including his son Nouredine, will be tried as soon as possible for a series of very serious crimes including high treason, corruption and drug trafficking.
Observers were surprised by this coup, because until now it was believed that the “famille”, as it was called in the country, directly controlled the security forces, averting the danger of a putsch.
As soon as it was clear, thanks to TV, that the long reign of the Bongos was over, people took to the streets of Libreville shouting “Long live freedom! the Bongos are finished!”.
State of Equatorial Africa, bordered by the Gulf of Guinea, it occupies an area of 267,667 sq km. and is populated by 2.3 million people.
The capital is Libreville.
Rich in precious timber, petroleum, manganese, gold, uranium and other raw materials, has been a close ally of France since the beginning of its history.
In 63 years, it has had only three presidents:
• the first, Léon M’Ba (1960-67) suffers an attempted coup on February 18, 1964: the direct intervention of the French military brings him back to power;
• the second, Albert Bernard Bongo (1967-2009), was first the chief of staff of M’Ba and from ’66 his vice president: when the Head of State died, he took his place, remaining in the saddle for 42 years old, until his death in Barcelona due to intestinal cancer;
• the third, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, son of Omar, inherits his leadership as happens in monarchies.
However, his 14 years of government are characterized by growing opposition: already in 2016, on the occasion of the previous presidential elections, massive frauds were denounced which guaranteed him a comfortable reconfirmation in office.
On January 7, 2019, after Bongo suffered a stroke that kept him away from the country for some time, part of the Armed Forces attempted a coup which, however, was repressed by the loyalists of the “famille”.
Lastly, on 26 August, new general elections were held with which the Presidency of the Republic, the National Assembly and the local councils were to be renewed.
Already in the months preceding the vote, the oppositions heavily criticized a series of changes introduced both in the constitution and in the electoral legislation.
In the constitution:
• the presidential term drops from seven to five years;
• the incumbent President can run for office indefinitely;
• the candidate obtaining the highest number of votes is elected.
The election code establishes a single ballot with which the voter elects from the head of state to the local councilor: the vote given to a name is transferred to all the other offices.
This battery of rules, although approved by the national assembly with a very large majority, is contested by a part of the opposition who fear, not without reason, that the ruling elite is preparing the ground for the re-election of the leader.
As for the elections of August 26, which are probably at the origin of the first successful coup in Gabonese history, they took place in an atmosphere of mystery: for days the country was isolated from the rest of the world, without internet and a night curfew.
To prevent people from having advances on the progress of the ballot, the license for the broadcasting of France 24 and Radio France International programs was suspended.
Reason communicated by the authorities? “We want to prevent clashes between the population”. In reality, many believe that the electoral commission needed time to fabricate the results that were announced on the night of August 30, shortly before the coup: these saw Bongo’s re-election with 64.27%, against 30.77% went to the head of Alternance 23, Albert Ondo Ossa, a former education minister.
But now the outcome of the polls has been invalidated by the men in uniform: while the condemnations for this umpteenth coup in Africa are pouring in, nobody seems to want the return of a Bongo at the helm of the Gabonese Republic. Rather, under a trace, it is hoped that the transition between the era of the “famille” and that of a truly democratic state will be as rapid as ever.
PIER LUIGI GIACOMONI
 Le Monde avec AFP, Au Gabon, des militaires proclament l’annulation des élections après l’annonce de la victoire d’Ali Bongo, lemonde.fr, 30 August 2023,
The translation and adaptation of the French text into English is mine;
 Albert Bernard Bongo, in 1973, converting to Islam, assumed the name of Al Hadj Omar Bongo.
In 2003 he adds Ondimba in memory of his father;
 At birth (1959) the deposed President was baptized Alain Bernard: subsequently, he too embraced the Muslim religion and assumed the name of Ali Ben Bongo.
In 2003 he added Ondimba in memory of his grandfather and to demonstrate loyalty to his father.