Gabon government says ‘situation under control’, army rebels seized

The government of Gabon declared that it was in control after an attempted coup by army rebels Monday and that it had arrested most of those involved.

“Calm has returned, the situation is under control,” government spokesperson Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told Agence France-Presse.

Military personnel in Gabon reportedly staged a coup attempt early on Monday morning, seizing the state radio station and declaring dissatisfaction with President Ali Bongo, saying they want to “restore democracy”.

Soldiers called on the people to “rise up” and announced a “national restoration council” would be formed. According to AFP, military vehicles blocked access to the boulevard where state broadcasting offices are located.

A message was read on state radio by a person who identified himself as the deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a group called the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.

Three soldiers wearing the green beret of the Republican Guard were visible on a video of the speech circulating on social media and authenticated by AFP.

The 59-year-old leader is currently in Morocco recovering from a stroke which he suffered in October last year. The Bongo family has governed the oil-rich equatorial African nation for five decades. Bongo was elected head of state after his father’s death in 2009 and has been out of the country for more than two months. Bongo was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a poll marred by violence and allegations of fraud.

READ MORE: Power vacuum in Gabon: End of the Bongo dynasty?

With the president incapacitated, Gabon’s constitution states that any one of the three arms of government — the executive, legislature and judiciary — can approach the Constitutional Court to confirm that a presidential vacancy exists and the speaker of the National Assembly must be appointed as the interim head of government, pending elections in 45 days.

On New Year’s Day, in an attempt to put an end to the rumours about his health, Bongo delivered a televised message in which he said he was feeling fine. In the message, he “charged the Prime Minister (Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet) to meet the expectations of the citizens” until his return to Gabon at an unspecified date.

According to media reports, soldiers say they were disappointed by the message, calling it “a pitiful sight” and a “relentless attempt to cling onto power”.This is a developing story and will be updated as more details emerge.

US President Donald Trump had deployed 80 US military personnel to Gabon in response to possible violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a disputed and delayed election.

In a letter to Congress, Trump said the troops were sent in response to “the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur”. The troops and supporting military aircraft would provide security to US citizens, personnel and diplomatic facilities in Kinshasa, should the need arise.

“Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Republic of Congo, if necessary for these purposes. These deployed personnel will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed,” the letter stated.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more details emerge.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Kiri Rupiah
Kiri Rupiah is the online editor at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories


Subscribers only

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

Matrics fail at critical subjects

The basic education minister talks of quality passes achieved by the class of 2020, but a closer look at the results tells a different story

More top stories

Remote working: Bosses want ‘bums on seats’

Many workers, including managers, like working remotely, but research shows it can be tough on most other employees.

Get to grips with the brains of youth

Shaping the frontal cortex as a critical youth development strategy

Turn off your Zoom video and help the planet

The pandemic has forced us indoors and using more data than ever before, putting more strain on the environment

Review: Mazda has missed an opportunity to dazzle

Mazda brought down only three of these late last year, all of which were thrust into media rotation

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…