The coup in Gabon represents more than just a political power struggle; it marks the potential end of a 60-year-long dynasty. The Bongo family had held a tight grip on Gabonese politics, with Omar Bongo Ondimba’s rule spanning from 1967 to 2009, followed by his son Ali Bongo’s presidency. The military’s actions have disrupted this decades-old political legacy, leaving Gabon at a crossroads, teetering between its authoritarian past and an uncertain democratic future.
Election Results Annulled
The military’s intervention began when army officers seized control of national television to announce the annulment of the election results declared just days earlier. President Bongo’s victory, declared by the national electoral authority, was swiftly rejected by officers from the presidential guard, broadcasting their dissent from the same channel. The military proclaimed the election results “truncated” and, in response, decided to invalidate them, vowing to put an “end to the regime” of President Bongo.
Controversial Election Leads to Crisis
The recent election in Gabon had been marred by irregularities and allegations of fraud. On Saturday, the Gabonese people cast their votes to choose a new president from among 13 candidates. However, as suspicions of misconduct grew, tension mounted, ultimately culminating in the military’s takeover on Wednesday.
Ali Bongo’s Controversial Reign
Ali Bongo Ondimba, the incumbent president, had held office since 2009 following the death of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled Gabon for over four decades. His initial election in 2009 was followed by a controversial second term in 2016, marked by violence and accusations of electoral fraud. Bongo secured a third term in the August 28th election, claiming over 64% of the vote, while his closest rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, received just over 30%.
Election Day Tensions
Tensions first flared on election day when polling stations suspended voting in the diaspora, and some stations opened late due to a shortage of voting materials. Following his vote, opposition candidate Ondo Ossa denounced “fraud” and demanded victory, calling for President Bongo’s resignation with an unwavering stance.
Internet Blackout and Curfew
In response to the escalating turmoil, Gabon’s Minister of Communications, Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, announced a nighttime curfew “in the name of the nation’s higher interest.” The government also shut down the internet, citing “calls for violence” and “false information” on social networks. This move was met with criticism, with many viewing it as an attempt to suppress evidence of election irregularities.
Predictable Crisis or Avoidable?
Opinions on the coup vary. Some observers saw it as predictable, attributing it to a flawed electoral system that fails to meet democratic standards. They argue that Gabon has struggled to transition successfully to democracy. Others, however, believe the crisis could have been avoided with fair and transparent elections.
In conclusion, Gabon faces a turbulent and uncertain future as the military seizes control amid allegations of election misconduct. The international community watches closely, hoping for a peaceful resolution to this unfolding crisis.