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Ali Bongo Ondimba ‘under house arrest’, his son arrested… what we know about the coup in Gabon

By Jeanne Le Bihan, Mathieu Olivier

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Posted on August 30, 2023 11:09

Elements of the Republican Guard wearing their green berets during the 17 August, 2023 parade. © COM PR
Elements of the Republican Guard wearing their green berets during the 17 August, 2023 parade. © COM PR

Soldiers announced on the night of 29-30 August that they have seized power in Gabon on behalf of the Comité pour la Transition and la Restauration des Institutions (CTRI). Several close associates of Ali Bongo Ondimba have been arrested and he is reportedly under house arrest.

Late Tuesday into Wednesday, 29-30 August, 11 soldiers in fatigues and a twelfth man in civilian clothes appeared on the screens of the national television channel Gabon 24.

Shortly after the provisional presidential election results were announced (with the Centre Gabonais des Elections declaring Ali Bongo Ondimba the winner with 64.27% of the votes), the soldiers announced the “end of the current regime”.

“To this effect, the general elections of 26 August, 2023, as well as the manipulated results, are cancelled. The borders are closed until further notice,” stated Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi, of the Army’s Command and Support Regiment.

Paratroopers in Libreville

Colonel Manfoumbi was accompanied by Aimé-Vivian Oyini, chief of staff of the Gabonese Republican Guard.

The announcement came from the studios of Gabon 24, located in the basement of the Palais au Bord de Mer, the seat of the Gabonese presidency. Elements of the army, notably paratrooper units recognisable by their red berets, have been deployed in Libreville. Spontaneous gatherings took place on the morning of 30 August in support of the coup attempt.

Members of the Republican Guard, wearing their green berets, celebrated the events inside the presidential palace itself. Near their regiment’s headquarters, they chanted, “Oligui, President!” suggesting that General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, commander in chief of the Republican Guard, is linked to the power grab by a junta calling itself the Comité pour la Transition et la Restauration des Institutions (CTRI). According to several sources, a statement is expected soon on radio and national television.

Social media and the internet have been partially restored. The CTRI announced on its X account (formerly Twitter) that it has appointed Gen. Oligui Nguema as its leader.

Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest?

Colonel Manfoumbi spoke on national television just before 11pm, Libreville time. In a brief statement, he said that President Ali Bongo Ondimba, rumoured to have left the country, was under house arrest, surrounded by his doctors and family. Several arrests among his close associates have also been made.

His son, Noureddin Bongo-Valentin, was arrested, according to Colonel Manfoumbi, along with several key figures tied to him: the spokesperson and special adviser to the president, Jessye Ella Ekogha, as well as Ian Ghislain Ngoulou, Mohamed Ali Saliou, Abdoul Oceni Ossa, and the president’s chief of staff, Cyriaque Mvourandjiami.

They are accused of treason against state institutions, organised international financial malpractice, forgery and drug trafficking. The CTRI stated that an investigation will be conducted by “competent services”.

According to our information, other high-ranking officials, including Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, president of the Constitutional Court, and Michel Stéphane Bonda, head of the CGE, have also been placed under house arrest.

Sources also indicate that the president’s sister, Pascaline Bongo Ondimba, left the country late Tuesday into Wednesday.

The Gabonese opposition has not yet commented on the ongoing events in Libreville. When contacted, Albert Ondo Ossa, Ali Bongo Ondimba’s main presidential rival, declined to comment but is closely monitoring the situation from his residence.

The opposition platform Alternance 2023 also denies any involvement in the ongoing coup.

“Our candidate was elected, based on the results we compiled. We believe the power should therefore go to him,” said a close associate of Ondo Ossa. “If it remains in the hands of the military, it won’t be democratic.”

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