Libreville (Gabon). Rebel soldiers who staged a coup in the Central African country Gabon have said that President Ali Bongo Ondimba has been kept under house arrest. Hours after Ondimba was declared the winner of the presidential election, the military claimed to have overthrown him. The Ondimba family has ruled this oil-rich country for the last 55 years. President Ondimba, who appeared in public for the first time amid the military coup attempt, called on the public to ‘protest’ it.
However, the public was seen celebrating their ouster by singing the national anthem on the streets of the capital. Ondimba’s family is accused of getting rich from the country’s resource wealth while many of the country’s citizens are struggling even for basic resources. The presidential election, which declared Ondimba victorious, was criticized by international observers and led to an attempted coup by the military just hours after the results were announced. Within minutes of the announcement of the election results, gunshots were heard in the main part of the capital, Libreville. Later, a dozen soldiers in uniform appeared on state television and announced that they had seized power.
Following the army’s announcement, people took to the streets of the city and celebrated the end of Ondimba rule by singing the national anthem with the soldiers. Yolande Okoma, standing in front of soldiers from Gabon’s elite Republican Guard, said, “Thank you army. The moment we have been waiting for a long time has come now.” Shopkeeper Vivienne Mbou offered juice to the soldiers which they declined. Ondimba later appeared in a video in which he is seen appealing to the public for support. In the video, he is seen sitting on a chair with a bookcase behind him.
Ondimba said he was at his residence while his wife and son were at different places. In the video, Ondimba is heard saying, “I urge you to protest, protest.” The video was shared by BTP Advisors with The Associated Press. BTP Advisors helped the President’s campaign during the election. Maja Bovokon, senior analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said there had been discontent about the Bongo family for years and the coup attempt was not surprising.
Gabon is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and produces 1,81,000 barrels of crude oil daily, but its two million population is facing unemployment and inflation. Several French companies operating in Gabon said they were closing their operations here to ensure the safety of employees. On calling the airport, an employee told that flights are canceled on Wednesday. Private intelligence agency Embre said the country’s main port of Libreville had halted shipping operations and authorities were not allowing ships to leave the coast.
In a second statement, military officers who orchestrated the coup said the president was under house arrest and was accompanied by family and doctors. The military said those close to the president were arrested for “high-level breach of trust with state institutions, large-scale embezzlement of public funds (and) international financial embezzlement”, among other charges. There has been no reaction on this from the President. According to reports published in the French media, several members of the Bongo family are under investigation in France, and preliminary charges have been laid on some of embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corruption.
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