What is happening in Gabon and who is Ali Bongo?


What is happening in Gabon and who is Ali Bongo?

Military leaders in Gabon have announced a coup after president Ali Bongo was declared victorious in the country’s presidential election.

The result, which would give him a third term in office and extend his family’s 55-year grip of power on the country, has been highly disputed.

But who is Mr Bongo, who is behind the coup and what is happening in the Central African nation?

Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Ali Bongo?

Ali Bongo’s family has held power in Gabon for 55 years.

His father Omar Bongo was the country’s president from 1967 until his death in 2009.

Ali Bongo, 64, has ruled since then – but his takeover was not welcomed by many Gabonese who believed his success was down to family connections.

“A spoilt child, born in Congo-Brazzaville, brought up in France, hardly able to speak indigenous languages and with the appearance of a hip-hop star”, was how Burkina Faso newspaper L’Observateur Paalga described him.

Mr Bongo went to school in France and then studied law at the Sorbonne in Paris. He entered politics after graduating, joining the Gabonese Democratic Party in 1981.

During his father’s presidency, Mr Bongo was minister of foreign affairs and minister of defence, and represented the town of Bongoville in the country’s National Assembly.

The town, originally called Lewai, was renamed after Omar Bongo, who was born there and massively expanded it during his presidency.

Mr Bongo was born Alain Bernard Bongo but changed his name to Ali in 1973, when he and his father converted to Islam.

In 1977 he released a funk album titled A Brand New Man, produced by James Brown’s former manager, Charles Bobbit.

Mr Bongo had a stroke in 2018 and spent months out of the country recovering.

Why has there been a coup attempt?

Mutinous soldiers declared they were seizing power hours after it was announced Mr Bongo had won 64% of the presidential vote, giving him a third term in office.

Opposition groups argued the result was fraudulent.

In the election, Mr Bongo faced an opposition coalition led by economics professor and former education minister Albert Ondo Ossa, whose surprise nomination came a week before the vote.

What is happening in Gabon and who is Ali Bongo?

Who announced the coup?

A group of nearly a dozen senior military figures made the announcement on the national TV channel Gabon 24.

They introduced themselves as members of The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions and said they represented all security and defence forces in Gabon.

The group’s members were drawn from the gendarme police force, the republican guard and other elements of the security forces.

What’s happened in Gabon since the attempted coup?

The military leaders said election results were cancelled, all borders were closed until further notice, and state institutions dissolved.

Sounds of gunfire were reported in the Gabonese capital Libreville on Wednesday morning, but there did not appear to be significant signs of unrest.

Crowds in the capital took to the city’s streets to celebrate the end of Mr Bongo’s reign, singing the national anthem with soldiers.

What is happening in Gabon and who is Ali Bongo?

Where is Mr Bongo now?

Mr Bongo has been placed under house arrest following the coup.

What’s the history of elections and violence in Gabon?

Every vote held in Gabon since the country’s return to a multi-party system in 1990 has ended in violence.

Clashes between government forces and protesters following the 2016 election killed four people, according to official figures, but opposition groups said the true number killed was higher.

Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in January 2019, while Mr Bongo was in Morocco recovering from a stroke. That uprising was foiled when two of the suspected coup plotters were killed and others arrested.

What about other coups in Africa?

The coup attempt came about one month after soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government.

It is the latest in a series of coups that have challenged governments with ties to France, the region’s former coloniser.

Gabon’s coup, if successful would bring the number of coups in West and Central Africa to eight since 2020.

Unlike Niger and two other West African countries run by military juntas, Gabon has not been wracked by jihadi violence and had been seen as relatively stable.

In his annual Independence Day speech on 17 August, Mr Bongo said: “While our continent has been shaken in recent weeks by violent crises, rest assured that I will never allow you and our country Gabon to be hostages to attempts at destabilisation. Never.”

Will the coup affect Europe?

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said if a coup was confirmed it would heap more instability on Europe.

Speaking at a meeting of EU defence ministers, he said they would discuss the situation in Gabon.

“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 to these countries,” he said.

“This is a big issue for Europe,” he added.

France is following the situation in Gabon very closely, said prime minister Elisabeth Borne on Wednesday, as she addressed a meeting of ambassadors in Paris.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.