LIBREVILLE-Leaders of the coup in Gabon on Thursday named a general transitional president after seizing power following disputed elections in which President Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose family has ruled for 55 years, was declared the winner. The claimed takeover sparked condemnation from the African Union and alarm from Nigeria over “contagious autocracy” in a continent where military forces have seized power in five other countries since 2020. Bongo, 64, who took over from his father Omar in 2009, was placed under house arrest and one of his sons was arrested for treason, the coup leaders said.
TV images showed the head of the Republican Guard, General Brice Oligui Nguema, being carried triumphantly by hundreds of soldiers, to cries of “Oligui president”. The coup leaders later named Oligui Nguema “transitional president”, according to a TV statement. The coup began with a pre-dawn address in which a group of officers declared that “all the institutions of the republic” had been dissolved, the election results cancelled and the borders closed. “The country is going through a serious institutional, political, economic and social crisis,” according to a statement read on state TV. It was read by an officer flanked by a dozen army colonels, members of the elite Republican Guard, regular soldiers and others. The elections “did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon”, the statement said. “Added to this is irresponsible and unpredictable governance, resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion, with the risk of leading the country in chaos.