Army officers in Gabon seized power on Wednesday, annulling the results of the recent presidential election and declaring a transitional government.
The new leader of the transition is General Brice Oligui Nguema, the former head of the presidential guard. Nguema was carried through the streets of the capital, Libreville, in a jubilant celebration by his supporters.
The deposed president, Ali Bongo, has appeared in a video at his home, calling on his “friends all over the world” to “make noise” on his behalf.
The coup was condemned by the UN, the African Union, and France, which had close ties to the Bongo family. The US state department urged Gabon’s military to “preserve civilian rule” and urged “those responsible to release and ensure the safety of members of government”. The UK condemned the “unconstitutional military takeover” of power.
There has long been simmering resentment of the Bongo family, which ruled Gabon for 55 years. The coup comes amid growing public discontent over the cost of living and other issues.
Gen. Nguema, 48, was aide-de-camp to the ousted leader’s father, Omar Bongo, who ruled for almost 42 years until his death in 2009. He was also intelligence chief under the elite republican guard.
The coup was sparked by concerns about the fairness of the recent presidential election, which Bongo won by a narrow margin. The opposition has alleged widespread fraud, and the UN has called for an independent investigation.
The coup is a major setback for democracy in Gabon, and it remains to be seen how the transition will unfold