Military Coup Shakes Gabon: President Under House Arrest Amidst Democratic Setbacks

Military Coup Shakes Gabon: President Under House Arrest Amidst Democratic Setbacks
Military Coup Shakes Gabon: President Under House Arrest Amidst Democratic Setbacks

In a significant development, Gabon, a Central African nation known for its oil production, has been thrust into turmoil as military officers orchestrated a coup. President Ali Bongo, declared the winner of a disputed election, found himself placed under house arrest as part of the military’s actions. This occurrence is the latest in a troubling trend of eight coups witnessed in West and Central Africa since 2020, casting doubts on the region’s democratic stability and posing concerns for foreign stakeholders.

The military officers took decisive steps to assert their control, including the annulment of election results and the dissolution of state institutions. President Bongo’s victory was swiftly invalidated, leading to his house arrest. General Brice Oligui Nguema emerged as the new leader following a unanimous vote by fellow generals.

From his detention, President Bongo reached out to foreign allies, expressing uncertainty about the unfolding situation. Interestingly, the military intervention garnered public support, with hundreds celebrating in the capital city, Libreville.

The international community, including entities such as the United Nations, African Union, and France (Gabon’s former colonial ruler), swiftly condemned the coup.

Gabon’s coup represents the latest in a series of military takeovers across the region since 2020, eroding the democratic progress achieved since the 1990s and raising concerns among foreign powers with strategic interests in the area. Notable previous instances include coup attempts in Niger, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

President Ali Bongo, who succeeded his father Omar in 2009, continued a family legacy dating back to 1967. Critics argue that the Bongo family has not equitably distributed the country’s oil and mining wealth among its 2.3 million citizens.

Tensions in Gabon were evident after President Bongo’s contested election victory in 2016, which led to violent unrest, and a foiled coup attempt in 2019. The recent election on August 26 raised transparency concerns due to the absence of international observers, suspension of foreign broadcasts, and internet restrictions.

Gabon’s status as an oil-producing nation, with a daily output of around 200,000 barrels, involves international companies such as TotalEnergies and Perenco. The coup introduces uncertainty regarding France’s regional presence, prompting concerns about the stability of foreign investments and military deployments.