Following the coup d’état that unfolded in the West African nation of Gabon on Wednesday, the coup leaders announced General Brice Oligui Nguema as the transitional leader of the country.

General Nguema’s rise to power was marked by a procession through the streets of the capital Libreville.

The deposed President Ali Bongo made an appearance in a video from the confines of his home yesterday. Addressing his “friends all over the world,” President Bongo urged their support.

Shortly after President Bongo’s plea, senior military officers announced on national television that they had taken control of the government. The officers clarified that President Bongo was placed under house arrest. The military also invalidated the election results, which declared Bongo as the winner and closed the nation’s borders. Citizens across various cities poured into the streets to celebrate the sudden change.

The coup marks the end to the 56-year-long Bongo family rule in Gabon.

As a former French colony, Gabon has emerged as one of Africa’s major oil producers. The ongoing coup naturally raised concerns about the stability of the nation’s oil production and its potential impact on global energy markets.

The coup attempt represents the eighth such incident within the last three years in former French colonies across Africa. France, the former colonial power, raised concerns about stability and democracy in the region.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat denounced the coup attempt, stressing that it violates African Union regulations and undermines the principles of democratic governance that the AU upholds. He emphasised that a military solution is inappropriate for the ongoing post-election crisis in the country.

The African Union (AU) issued a statement calling for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis and the swift return to democratic constitutional order in the country. Gabon has been a member of the AU since 1963. The AU comprises 55 African nations.

Gabon achieved independence from France in 1960 and has navigated its path through various leadership transitions since then. The country’s post-independence history includes only three leaders. The first leader, Leon M’Ba, assumed the presidency in 1961. M’Ba’s presidency was characterised by a conservative stance and pro-France policies, reflecting the challenges and opportunities that accompanied newly gained sovereignty.

In 1964, a coup d’état temporarily ousted M’Ba from power. French intervention swiftly led to his reinstatement as president.

M’Ba’s second term was short-lived, as he passed away in 1967. His successor, Omar Bongo, survived for over four decades until he died in 2009. He was one of the longest-serving leaders in the world. During his tenure, Gabon maintained a close relationship with France through a framework known as “Francafrique.”

“Francafrique” is a network of political and economic ties between France and its former colonies. Under Omar Bongo’s leadership, Gabon received political and military support from France, often in exchange for economic benefits and business arrangements. This relationship, while providing stability, also led to accusations of neocolonialism and limited Gabon’s full sovereignty.

Tensions between Gabon and France came to the fore in 2009 when Ali Bongo, Omar Bongo’s son, was declared the winner of a disputed election. The contested victory strained the previously harmonious relationship between the two nations. Subsequently, allegations of corruption involving the Bongo family surfaced, prompting an extended investigation into their financial assets.

In 2018, President Ali Bongo suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated for nearly a year. The health crisis sparked widespread demands for him to relinquish his position.

However, Ali Bongo chose to disregard these calls and decided to run for re-election. Bongo successfully contested the election and secured another term in office.