A faction of military officers has taken control in Gabon, a country in central Africa located next to Cameroon, following the declaration of incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba as the election winner.
The soldiers announced on television their intention to dismantle the current regime. Ali Bongo Ondimba’s father governed Gabon from 1967 until his passing in 2009.
He succeeded him and had recently secured a contested third 7-year term. The military officers claim to have nullified the election, dissolved institutions, and shut the nation’s borders.
On Wednesday, Gabon’s election board declared that Bongo clinched the presidency with 64.27% of the votes in a contentious and delayed election, which the opposition branded as rigged.
According to the board, his main rival, joint candidate Albert Ondo Ossa, garnered 30.77%. Bongo’s team swiftly rebuffed allegations of voting mishaps made by Ondo Ossa.
Ali Bongo faced off against a field of 18 rivals. Notably, six of these competitors rallied behind Albert Ondo Ossa, a former minister and university professor, in a strategic bid to tighten the race.
The drive for change was palpable among many in the opposition, given Gabon’s paradoxical status as an oil-rich nation yet with a poverty-ridden population of 2.3 million.
At 64, Ali Bongo filled the shoes of his father, Omar Bongo, who passed away in 2009 from a heart attack while undergoing treatment for intestinal cancer in a Spanish clinic, ending his nearly 42-year leadership stint.
Stepping into power in 1967, just seven years after Gabon’s break from French rule, the elder Bongo kept a tight hold over the country, instituting a one-party system for an extended period. He only greenlighted a multi-party setup in 1991, but his party still maintained a significant sway in the government.
Bongo, who visited Washington DC last December for the second U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit with President Joe Biden, had suffered a stroke a few years ago. As a result, he had to be pulled out of the car.