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Live: Gabon general named ‘transitional president’ by attempted coup leaders

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 Gabon’s junta named General Brice Oligui Nguema as transition leader, soldiers said on national television on Wednesday.

Video grab shows soldiers holding General Brice Oligui Nguema aloft in Libreville, Gabon on August 30, 2023. Video grab shows soldiers holding General Brice Oligui Nguema aloft
in Libreville, Gabon on August 30, 2023. 
© Gabon24 via AP

The announcement came hours after President Ali Bongo appeared in a video and called on his “friends” to “make noise” after military officers in the Central African state staged a coup attempt. Follow our live blog for all the latest developments on the situation in Gabon. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

  • A group of senior Gabonese military officers appeared on the Gabon 24 television channel in the early hours of Wednesday morning and said they represented the security and defence forces of the central African nation.

  • The soldiers said election results giving incumbent Ali Bongo a victory were annulled, all borders were closed until further notice and state institutions were dissolved.

  • Gabon voted Saturday in presidential, parliamentary and legislative elections in which Bongo and opposition leader Ondo Ossa led a race of 14 candidates vying for the top job. Bongo ascended to the presidency of the oil-rich Central African state in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled the country for 41 years.

7:34pm: French media broadcast resumes, curfew extended

More details on the junta’s TV statement coming in: Gabon has resumed broadcast of suspended French media and a curfew has been extended “until further notice”.

7:30pm: Junta names General Brice Oligui Nguema as ‘transition’ leader

The Gabon junta named General Brice Oligui Nguema as transition leader, soldiers said on national television.

“General Oligui Nguema Brice was unanimously appointed chairman of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, chairman of the transition,” declared an officer in the presence of dozens of senior officers, according to the press release read out on Gabon 24.

7:01pm: UN chief condemns Gabon coup attempt

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the ongoing coup attempt in Gabon and called on all involved to “to exercise restraint, engage in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue, and ensure that the rule of law and human rights are fully respected”, said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

“He also calls on the national army and security forces to guarantee the physical integrity of the president of the republic and his family,” Dujarric said.

6:15pm: All coups in Africa ‘not motivated for the same reason’

If successful, the coup attempt in Gabon will be the eighth military takeover in Africa over the past three years. These include coups in MaliBurkina Faso and Niger. But FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Commentator Douglas Herbert notes that while there’s a tendency to “lump all African coups together” and “to say there’s yet another coup” in Africa, “all coups are not motivated for the same reason”.

While the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger were motivated by the public’s frustration over the failure to contain jihadist violence, Gabon was not riddled by jihadist violence, Herbert explains.

The coup attempt in Gabon appears directed against the “dynastic rule” in the country, notes Herbert. This adds to France’s “complicated relationship” with its former African colony.

5:54pm: Gabon ally Morocco stresses ‘importance of preserving stability’

Morocco, an ally of Gabon, on Wednesday has stressed “the importance of preserving stability” in the central African country following the military coup that ousted the Gabonese president from power.

In a brief statement, the Moroccan foreign ministry said it is “closely following developments in the Gabonese Republic”.

5:22pm: US ‘deeply concerned’ over Gabon coup attempt

The United States is deeply concerned by events in Gabon, where military officers said on Wednesday that they had seized power, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told a briefing.

Kirby said all US embassy personnel and what he called a small number of troops had been accounted for after military officers in Gabon said they had put President Ali Bongo under house arrest.

“We’re following this very, very closely,” said Kirby.

“It’s deeply concerning to us. We will remain a supporter of the people in the region, a supporter of the people of Gabon and of their demand for democratic governance,” he told a briefing. “We’re watching this closely.”

If successful, the Gabon coup would be the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020.

“I think it’s too soon to call this a trend,” said Kirby, adding that the US would “remain focused on promoting democracy on the continent.”

5:18pm: Attempted coup in Gabon aims to end 50-year Bongo dynasty

Gabon has now been ruled by the same family for more than 55 out of its 63 years since independence from France in 1960. Many inhabitants have only known life under the Bongo family.

FRANCE 24’s Joanna York takes a look at the Bongo family’s rule in Gabon.

Read moreAttempted coup in Gabon aims to remove President Ali Bongo from power and end 50-year dynasty

5:02pm: Nigeria and Canada leaders underline importance of democratic governance in Africa

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu on Wednesday discussed the situation in Gabon and Niger with Canada’s Justin Trudeau via telephone.

The two countries’ leaders agreed that the protection of constitutional democratic governance in Africa was a paramount priority, Tinubu’s spokesperson said on Wednesday.

4:32pm: Gabon leader Bongo ‘placed in retirement,’ says presidential guard head

Gabon President Ali Bongo has “been placed in retirement”, the head of his presidential guard, Brice Oligui Nguema, told French newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday after rebel officers said they had toppled him.

“He has been placed in retirement. He has all his rights. He’s an ordinary Gabonese person, like everyone,” Nguema said, while denying that he had become the leader of the putsch.

4:05pm: Spain to evaluate African peacekeeping missions after coup in Niger, coup attempt in Gabon

Spain will evaluate peacekeeping missions in Africa after a coup in Niger and a coup attempt in Gabon, acting Defence Minister Margarita Robles said on Wednesday at a European Union defence ministers meeting in Toledo.

Robles added that Spain was monitoring events in Africa’s Sahel region with great concern. Spain has about 140 troops stationed to the northeast of Mali’s capital, Bamako, as part of the EU’s training mission there.

4:03pm: African Union urges Gabon army to ensure president’s safety

African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat on Wednesday called on Gabon‘s army to ensure the safety of President Ali Bongo and his family, after military officers announced that they had seized power.

He said in a statement that he was following the situation with great concern and condemned what he called an attempted coup.

4:01pm: Nigeria President Tinubu watches Gabon situation ‘with deep concern’, spokesperson says

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the current chair of West African bloc ECOWAS, is working closely with other African heads of state on how to respond to an attempted coup in Gabon, his spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale said.

Tinubu is watching developments in Gabon and the “autocratic contagion” spreading across the continent “with deep concern”, the spokesperson said.

3:48pm: FRANCE 24 retraces the Bongo family’s political dynasty

The family of Gabon‘s President Ali Bongo, who is currently under house arrest following a coup attempt, has ruled the country for more than half a century.

Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo’s father, ruled the central African country for 41 years. His son came to power in 2009 when he was elected president despite highly disputed results.

FRANCE 24’s Monte Francis retraces the Bongo family’s long history in power.

Please click on the video player to watch the report.

3:20pm: AU official calls urgent meeting on Gabon

The African Union‘s Peace and Security Council Chair Willy Nyamitwe said on Wednesday that he had urgently assembled a meeting with Burundi, Senegal and Cameroon to analyse the situation in Gabon where he said a coup attempt was under way.

3:12pm: Gabon generals to meet on Wednesday to decide who will lead transition

Head of Gabon‘s presidential guard, Brice Oligui Nguema, told French newspaper Le Monde that generals would meet on Wednesday to decide who would lead the transition after military officers said they had seized power.

2:26pm: Ali Bongo calls on ‘friends’ of Gabon to ‘make noise’ after coup attempt

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo called on “friends” of Gabon “all over the world” to “make noise” as a coup attempt was under way in the Central African country, saying he was speaking from detention in his residence.

Bongo appeared in a video seated in a chair with a bookshelf behind him. It was his first public appearance since soldiers announced Wednesday on state television that they were “ending his regime”.

Bongo said he was at his residence and that his wife and son were in different places.

2:01pm: Commonwealth of Nations calls Gabon coup attempt ‘deeply concerning’

The Commonwealth of Nations on Wednesday voiced fears about a military coup under way in Gabon, which joined the grouping of mostly British former colonies last year, and said it was monitoring the situation closely.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the situation was “deeply concerning”, adding: “The Commonwealth Charter is clear that member states must uphold the rule of law and the principles of democracy at all times”.

Read moreWest African nations Gabon and Togo join Commonwealth

1:43pm: Residents in Libreville celebrate military’s coup attempt

Some residents of Gabon’s capital Libreville are celebrating in the streets after military officers announced that they were “ending the regime” of President Ali Bongo.

“Clearly [they] did not want the outgoing president Ali Bongo Ondimba to continue for a third term in office,” said FRANCE 24 correspondent Indira Ayuk, reporting from Cameroon.

Bongo, currently detained by military officers, is believed to be held in the presidential palace.


1:22pm: Ships drop anchor off Gabon’s coast after coup attempt

At least 30 commercial ships dropped anchor around Gabon‘s waters on Wednesday after military officers said they had seized power in the West African country, according to data and maritime sources.

The vessels included commercial cargo ships as well as tankers. They dropped anchor near Gabon’s major ports including Owendo, near the capital Libreville, and Port-Gentil further south, ship tracking data from analytics company MarineTraffic showed on Wednesday.

British maritime security company Ambrey said port operations in Libreville had stopped and no vessels had entered or departed since the announcement of the coup attempt.

“Ambrey is aware that movements in and out of Gabon have been closed down following an early morning announcement by military officials,” it added in an advisory.

12:58pm: Gabonese soldiers hail head of presidential guard after putsch

The head of Gabon‘s presidential guard Brice Oligui Nguema was carried triumphantly by soldiers on Wednesday, hours after rebel officers said they had deposed President Ali Bongo, according to images broadcast on state TV.

The footage, which showed hundreds of soldiers, some shouting “Oligui president”, was played on a loop following military officers’ statement that announced Bongo was under house arrest.

12:49pm: Crowds celebrate in Gabon’s Libreville and economic capital Port-Gentil

Crowds in Gabon’s capital of Libreville took to the city’s streets to celebrate after military officers appeared on state TV announcing they were “ending the regime” of President Ali Bongo.

Crowds were singing the national anthem with soldiers.

“Thank you, army. Finally, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing in front of soldiers from Gabon’s elite republican guard.

Shopkeeper Viviane Mbou offered the soldiers juice, which they declined.

“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with armoured policemen.

Residents applaud members of the security forces in the Plein Ciel district of Libreville on August 30, 2023.
Residents applaud members of the security forces in the Plein Ciel district of Libreville on August 30, 2023. © AFP

In the popular Plein Ciel district, not far from the city centre, an AFP staff member witnessed about 100 people on a bridge, on foot or in cars, shouting “This is liberation!” and “Bongo out!”.

To the sound of horns, they waved and applauded masked policemen in riot gear as well as soldiers in pick-up trucks raising their arms in victory.

Meanwhile, in a popular district of Port-Gentil, Gabon’s economic capital, hundreds of people honked their horns, shouting “Gabon is liberated”.

12:42pm: France ‘condemns the coup that is under way’ in Gabon, government spokesman says

France “condemns the coup that is under way” in Gabon, French government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Wednesday.

“We condemn the military coup and recall our commitment to free and transparent elections,” Véran said.

12:03pm: Kremlin says ‘closely following’ the situation in Gabon

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that it was “closely following” the situation in Gabon, where senior military officers said earlier that they had overthrown the government.

11:55am: Gabon president under house arrest, military officers say

Gabonese President Ali Bongo is under house arrest and one of his sons has been arrested for “treason”, military officers said Wednesday, hours after announcing they had overthrown the government.

“President Ali Bongo is under house arrest, surrounded by his family and doctors,” they said in a statement read out on state TV.

The statement added that other people in the government have been arrested on various charges.

11:41am: TotalEnergies says top priority is ‘safety of employees’ and ‘operations’ in Gabon

The French oil group TotalEnergies said in a press release on Wednesday that its top priority was to “ensure the safety of its employees and its operations” in Gabon.

TotalEnergies said it has 350 staff in Gabon and is the country’s main distributor of petroleum products with 45 petrol stations.

Gabon also accounted for 0.6 percent of the company’s oil and gas output in 2022.

TotalEngergies has been operating in the country for over 90 years.

11:36am: Video recap – Gabonese military officers announce they are ‘ending current regime’

Please click on the player to watch the report by FRANCE 24’s Shirli Sitbon on the morning’s events in Gabon. 

10:05am: China calls for ‘all sides’ in Gabon to guarantee Ali Bongo’s safety

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called Wednesday for “all sides” to guarantee the safety of President Ali Bongo, adding: “China is closely following the developing situation”.

“We call on all sides in Gabon to proceed from the basic interests of the country and the people, resolve differences through dialogue [and] restore normal order as soon as possible,” he added, urging all parties to “guarantee the personal safety of President Bongo and uphold national peace and stability”.

9:27am: France following situation in Gabon very closely, says PM Borne

France is following the situation in Gabon very closely, said Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne on Wednesday, as she addressed a meeting of ambassadors in Paris.

Borne did not provide further details.

Gabon gained independence from 60 years of French colonial rule in 1960, but the two countries have maintained close economic, diplomatic and cultural ties. French is the official language of Gabon, and national systems such as education are heavily based on the French model.

9:12am: Internet restored in Gabon three days after being cut

Internet connectivity was restored in Gabon on Wednesday three days after being cut as voting in the presidential, parliamentary and legislative elections drew to a close on Saturday evening.

Bongo’s government had imposed the nationwide internet shutdown on the grounds that it would prevent the spread of “false news” and possible violence.

Read moreGabon cuts internet as voting closes and opposition cries foul

8:57am: Events in Gabon could ‘increase instability’ in region, says EU’s Borrell

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU’s defence ministers would discuss the situation in Gabon, and that if it was confirmed that a coup d’état had taken place, it would lead to increased instability in the region.

“If this is confirmed, it is another military coup which increases instability in the whole region,” said Borrell, speaking at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Toledo.

“The whole area, starting with Central African Republic, then Mali, then Burkina Faso, now Niger, maybe Gabon, it’s in a very difficult situation and certainly the ministers … have to have a deep thought on what is going on there and how we can improve our policy in respect with these countries,” he said.

8:52am: French mining group Eramet says it has halted all operations in Gabon

French mining group Eramet, which has large manganese operations in Gabon, said on Wednesday that it had halted all operations in the country following overnight events, which sent its shares plummeting..

“In view of the events under way in Gabon and as a precautionary measure, the group has activated procedures to ensure the security of its staff and the integrity of its operations … From this morning all Comilog and Setrag operations have been halted and train transport suspended,” an Eramet spokesperson told Reuters.

“The group is monitoring in real time how the situation evolves,” it said.

8:30am: FRANCE 24 international affairs editor Philip Turle provides context and analysis as events unfold in Gabon

6:22am: Gunfire heard in the capital Libreville

Loud sounds of gunfire could be heard in Gabon’s capital Libreville, Reuters and AFP reporters said following the military officers’ television announcement.

Tensions had been running high and there were fears of unrest after Saturday’s vote, which saw Bongo seeking to extend his family’s 56-year grip on power while the opposition pushed for change in the oil- and cocoa-rich but poverty-stricken nation.

A lack of international observers, the suspension of some foreign broadcasts – including FRANCE 24 and sister radio station Radio France Internationale – and the authorities’ decision to cut internet service and impose a nationwide night-time curfew after the poll had raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process.

There was no immediate comment from the government of the OPEC++++++++++ member nation.

6:18am: Soldiers announce dissolution of state institutions in TV address

Appearing on the Gabon 24 television channel, the officers said they represented all the security and defence forces of the central African nation. They said the election results were annulled, all borders closed until further notice and state institutions dissolved.

“In the name of the Gabonese people … we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime,” the officers said.

One of the soldiers added that “all the institutions of the republic” had been dissolved.

“We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” one of the soldiers said, adding that he was speaking on behalf of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions”.

“To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled,” he said.

“All the institutions of the republic are dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court,” he added, announcing the closure of the country’s borders “until further notice”.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters, AFP and AP)