Gabonese putschists appoint the commander of the Republican Guard as president of the transitional period

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The military coup in Gabon appointed, on Wednesday night, the commander of the Republican Guard, General Brice Oligui Nguema, as president of the transitional period, after they announced at dawn their seizure of power and their rejection of the results of the presidential elections in which he won a third term, Ali Bongo, whose family has held power for 55 years.

The African Union condemned the coup plotters’ announcement of their seizure of power, and Nigeria warned of infectious authoritarianism on a continent that, starting in 2020, witnessed the military’s seizure of power in six countries.

Bongo, 64, who was elected president in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, was placed under house arrest, and one of his sons was arrested on charges of high treason, according to the putschists.

“The country is currently going through serious institutional, political, economic and social crises,” the putschists statement said, which was broadcasted by the state television.

The statement was read by an officer in the presence of dozens of senior officers and generals representing all army brigades, members of the Republican Guard, and soldiers.

The statement stressed that the elections didn’t meet the conditions for a transparent vote, on which many Gabonians were counting.

They denounced an irresponsible ruling that causes a continuous deterioration of social cohesion, which could lead to the country entering a state of chaos.

The putschists said in their statement, “We, the defense and security forces, gathered within the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions, have decided, in the name of the Gabonese people, to defend peace by ending the existing regime”.

Later, scenes broadcast on state television showed hundreds of soldiers carrying the commander of the presidential guard, General Brice Oligui Nguema, on their shoulders, celebrating the victory.

Later, the putschists announced “the unanimous appointment of General Brice Oligui Nguema Press as head of the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions and as head of the transitional period,” without setting the duration of the transitional period.

In the statement of the putschists, which followed at dawn on Wednesday, the military announced that Noureddine Bongo Valentin, son of the president and his close advisor, Ian Ghislan Ngolo, head of Bongo’s office, Mohamed Ali Salio, deputy head of his office, Abdel Husseini, another advisor to the presidency, and Jessie Ella Ekoga, a special advisor, had been arrested along with official spokesperson for the presidency, as well as the two most important men in Bongo’s powerful Gabonese Democratic Party.

The statement indicated that they were arrested, especially on charges of high treason to state institutions, embezzlement of public funds on a large scale, international financial embezzlement within an organized gang, forgery, forging the signature of the President of the Republic, corruption and drug trafficking.

Later Wednesday, Bongo called on “all friends” to “speak up”, in a video that went viral on social media.

“I am Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon, I send a message to all our friends all over the world to ask them to raise their voices about the people who arrested me and my family,” Bongo said in the video, in which he appeared sitting on a chair and showing signs of anxiety, stressing that he is in his home.

Bongo indicated that his son and wife weren’t with him.

In Libreville’s popular neighborhood of Blanc Ciel, close to the city center, an AFP correspondent saw about 100 people on a bridge, some on foot and some in cars, chanting “It’s liberation… Bongo get out,” while sound of car horns, they applauded the riot police, whose members were masked.

The coup statement came shortly after Bongo’s victory was officially announced, with 64.27% of the vote at dawn on Wednesday.

According to the results, Bongo’s main rival, Albert Ondo Osa, received 30.77% of the vote, while 12 other candidates shared the remaining votes.

Osa had talked about “fraud operations run by the Bongo camp,” two hours before polling stations closed on Saturday, and confirmed his victory in the elections.

Last Monday, the camp of Ondo Ossa appealed to the outgoing president to organize the handover of power without bloodshed, based on a count of votes conducted by his auditors, without publishing any document proving that.

This development came as the country is witnessing a curfew and internet outages in all regions, as part of measures taken by the government on Saturday before polling stations were closed in order to prevent the spread of false news and potential violence.

The putschists announced in a televised statement on Wednesday evening that the night curfew imposed by Bongo four days ago would remain in effect “until further notice” with the aim of “maintaining calm”.

Several French media outlets whose licenses were suspended in the turbulent post-election period were allowed to resume their work, according to a statement read Wednesday by Gabon 24 TV.

The Bongo family ruled the country of 2.3 million people for more than 55 years, knowing that Gabon gained its independence from France in 1960.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemned the ongoing coup attempt” in Gabon, calling on all parties to “exercise restraint” and “dialogue,” according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The White House announced on Wednesday that it was “closely following” the situation in Gabon, while the African Union “strongly” condemned what it described as an attempted coup in Gabon.

The Nigerian president Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced that he was in contact with the leaders of other African countries in an effort to curb the infectious authoritarianism spreading across our continent.

A spokesman for the president said that “power should be in the hands of the great people of Africa ​​and not in the military”.

Since 2020, military personnel have seized power in Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

The French government spokesman Olivier Ferrand announced on Wednesday that Paris condemns the military coup currently taking place in Gabon, noting that France is monitoring with great attention the developments of the situation.

The Kremlin announced on Wednesday that it was following the situation in Gabon with great concern as a military coup took place in the country.

Germany also announced that it condemned the military coup in Gabon on Wednesday, although it acknowledged that there were legitimate concerns about the integrity of the elections.

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