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Gabon: Analyst says "external force not likely behind coup"

This video shows coup supporters cheering police officers in Libreville, Gabon, on Wednesday, August 30, 2023.   -  
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Betiness Mackosso/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


There is no evidence to suggest that external powers are behind the attempted military coup in Gabon, a leading security analyst said on Wednesday.

"The grievances that have been put to the front are related to internal controversies, meaning the elections, the last elections and beyond the elections”, Remadji Hoinathy, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies Africa, said.

Mutinous soldiers in Gabon proclaimed their republican guard chief as the country’s leader late on Wednesday after placing the just-reelected President Ali Bongo Ondimba under house arrest.

The coup leaders alleged betrayal and massive embezzlement during Bongo’s long-time rule over the oil-rich Central African nation.

Hoinathy said very few people predicted a military coup and explained that this was due to the “stronghold of the Bongo family and the Bongo system and the administrative machine in Gabon”.

Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, has served two terms since coming to power in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar, who ruled the country for 41 years, and there has been widespread discontent with his reign.

Another group of mutinous soldiers attempted a coup in 2019 but was quickly overpowered.

The former French colony is a member of OPEC, but its oil wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few — and nearly 40% of Gabonese aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2020, according to the World Bank.

Its oil export revenue was $6 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Nine members of the Bongo family, meanwhile, are under investigation in France, and some face preliminary charges of embezzlement, money laundering and other forms of corruption, according to Sherpa, a French NGO dedicated to accountability.

Investigators have linked the family to more than $92 million in properties in France, including two villas in Nice, the group says.

The coup came about one month after mutinous soldiers in Niger seized power from the democratically elected government and is the latest in a series of coups across West and Central Africa in recent years.

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