Insurgent Soldiers in Gabon Instate Military Commander Following Arrest of President, Accusing Him of Misconduct

by Lucas Garcia
Gabon military coup

On Wednesday, rebellious military personnel in Gabon declared their nation’s Republican Guard Chief as the new leader, after detaining recently re-elected President Ali Bongo Ondimba in his residence. They accused him of pervasive corruption and betraying the public trust during his extensive rule over this resource-abundant Central African country.

An official proclamation on Gabon’s state television announced that General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema was “unanimously” selected to head a transitional government. Oligui, a relative of Bongo, took the reins shortly after Bongo was declared the victor of the latest presidential election, extending a dynastic rule spanning 55 years, including his late father’s term.

From his place of detention, President Bongo encouraged the populace to voice their support for him. However, people in the streets of the capital were observed celebrating the overthrow of a ruling family accused of accumulating wealth from the nation’s resources, while a significant portion of its citizenry remains impoverished.

One citizen, Yollande Okomo, expressed her gratitude to the military: “Thank you, army. This moment has been long-awaited,” she said, standing in proximity to the Republican Guard soldiers who were instrumental in executing the coup.

The coup orchestrators implemented a curfew, effective between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time, but clarified that citizens would be permitted to move freely during daylight hours on Thursday. “As we usher in a new era, maintaining peace, stability, and the dignity of our beloved Gabon is imperative,” stated Lt. Col. Ulrich Manfoumbi on state television.

General Oligui, the newly instated leader, had previously served as a bodyguard to Bongo’s late father, President Omar Bongo, and later became the head of the nation’s secret service before his most recent role in the Republican Guard, according to Desire Ename, a local journalist.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, assumed power in 2009 following the demise of his father, who governed for 41 years. Public dissatisfaction with his administration has been growing. An earlier coup attempt by another faction of rebellious military personnel occurred in 2019 but was swiftly quashed.

Gabon, a former French colony, is an OPEC member with substantial oil revenues that, however, are concentrated among a select few. The World Bank has reported nearly 40% unemployment among Gabonese youth aged 15 to 24 as of 2020. Furthermore, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country’s oil export revenue amounted to $6 billion in 2022.

Simultaneously, investigations in France have implicated nine members of the Bongo family in financial misconduct, including embezzlement and money laundering. Preliminary charges suggest ties to properties in France valued at more than $92 million.

The coup leaders, in a statement, condemned Bongo’s “erratic and reckless governance,” claiming it risked plunging the nation into disarray. They also disclosed the detention of several individuals close to the President on charges of betraying state institutions and misappropriation of public and international funds.

Experts caution that the military takeover could result in widespread instability and might be more indicative of fissures within the ruling class rather than an initiative to improve ordinary citizens’ lives. The coup follows a similar upheaval in Niger approximately one month ago, and forms part of a series of recent military coups in West and Central Africa.

In the elections preceding the coup, Bongo faced opposition from a coalition led by Albert Ondo Ossa, an economics professor and former Education Minister. The capital city, Libreville, which is generally an opposition stronghold, witnessed gunfire immediately after the election results were announced. Subsequently, a group of soldiers appeared on national television declaring they had seized power.

It remains uncertain how the military takeover is viewed in rural areas, where Bongo traditionally enjoys more support.

The coup also appears to have immediate economic consequences. Civil aviation and port operations have been suspended, and several French companies have temporarily halted their activities in the country. France and the United States have condemned the coup, and it has drawn scrutiny from the international community, including the African Union, which has called for a return to democratic governance.

This report includes contributions from multiple journalists located in various international locations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gabon military coup

What happened in Gabon recently?

Rebellious military personnel in Gabon detained President Ali Bongo Ondimba and declared General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema as the new leader of a transitional government. This event is being described as a military coup.

Who is the new leader instated by the insurgent soldiers?

The insurgent soldiers have instated General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, who is a relative of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. He has previously served as the head of the nation’s secret service and the Republican Guard.

What are the accusations against President Ali Bongo Ondimba?

The detained President is accused of long-standing corruption, betrayal of public trust, and mismanagement of the country’s abundant resources. His governance has led to growing public dissatisfaction.

What immediate actions have the coup leaders taken?

The coup leaders have implemented a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time, although citizens are allowed to move freely during the day. They have also made arrests of individuals close to the President on various charges, including betrayal of state institutions and embezzlement of funds.

How has the international community reacted?

France and the United States have condemned the coup. The African Union has called for a return to democratic governance, and several countries are closely monitoring the situation for further developments.

Are there any economic implications of the coup?

Yes, there are immediate economic consequences. Operations at Gabon’s main port in Libreville have been halted, and several French companies have suspended their activities in the country. Furthermore, civil aviation operations have been suspended.

How does this event align with recent trends in West and Central Africa?

The coup in Gabon follows a similar event in Niger about a month ago and is part of a series of recent military takeovers in West and Central Africa. Analysts are concerned about the potential for increased instability in the region.

What is the state of public opinion following the coup?

While the capital city, Libreville, has witnessed celebrations in the streets following the coup, it remains unclear how the event is perceived in rural areas, where President Bongo has traditionally enjoyed more support.

Is the detained President facing any international charges?

Members of the Bongo family, including the detained President, are under investigation in France for embezzlement, money laundering, and other forms of financial misconduct.

How long had Ali Bongo Ondimba been in power before this event?

Ali Bongo Ondimba assumed power in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who had ruled Gabon for 41 years. Ali Bongo Ondimba had recently been re-elected for another term before the coup took place.

More about Gabon military coup

  • Gabon Coup: What We Know So Far
  • Profile: General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema
  • Economic Impact of Coups in Central Africa
  • African Union Statement on Gabon Coup
  • France’s Diplomatic Relations with Gabon
  • U.S. Energy Information on Gabon’s Oil Revenue
  • A History of Military Coups in West and Central Africa
  • Background: Ali Bongo Ondimba’s Rule in Gabon
  • World Bank Data on Gabon’s Youth Unemployment
  • Investigations into the Bongo Family by French Authorities

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Mandy_Q August 30, 2023 - 9:12 pm

Sad how the rich get richer and the poor suffer. Even with all the oil wealth, nothin changes.

AlexT August 31, 2023 - 5:03 am

another coup in Africa. What’s happening to the continent?

FionaG August 31, 2023 - 5:26 am

So many coups lately. seems like democracy is failing everywhere.

SaraH_91 August 31, 2023 - 8:07 am

This is so detailed, thank you. but how reliable is Gen. Oligui gonna be? Seems like more of the same to me.

Mike L. August 31, 2023 - 9:32 am

Wow, didn’t see that coming! Gabon seemed stable but guess corruption catches up to you eventually.

Tom_D August 31, 2023 - 2:50 pm

Where is the UN in all this? Just statements, no actions as usual smh.

JenJen August 31, 2023 - 3:09 pm

Is the world even paying attention? or too busy with other stuff to care.

KevinR August 31, 2023 - 7:43 pm

This is bad for business. Suspended port operations? Thats gonna hit the economy hard.


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