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Gabon's military seize power in bid to end Bongo family's 55-year rule

SECURITY forces in Gabon said today they had seized power and “put an end” to the rule of the family that has held power for 55 years in the francophone country.

The military also announced that they had arrested the president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, whose re-election, after a campaign marred by violence, was announced just hours before.

Every vote held in Gabon since the country returned to multi-party democracy in 1990 has ended in violence.

This time, within minutes of the announcement, gunfire was heard in the centre of the capital, Libreville. 

A dozen members of the military then appeared on state television and announced that they had seized power.

Introducing themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and Restoration of Institutions, they said: “In the name of the Gabonese people we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime.

“We call on the people, the communities of brotherly nations that reside in Gabon as well as the Gabonese diaspora to remain calm and serene.”

They added that they intended to “dissolve all institutions of the republic.”

Later in the day, a second video carried on state television said the president and other people in the government have been arrested on various charges.

Large crowds soon took to the city’s streets to celebrate the end of Mr Bongo’s reign.

“Thank you, army. Finally, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing in front of soldiers from Gabon’s elite republican guard.

“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with armoured policemen.

French mining company Eramet said it was ceasing all operations in Gabon. 

The company’s subsidiaries in Gabon operate the world’s largest manganese mine, and a rail transport company. 

Gabon is also the eighth-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa.

Private intelligence firm Ambrey said all operations at the country’s main port in Libreville had been halted, with authorities refusing to grant permission for vessels to leave.

The coup attempt came about one month after the military in Niger seized power and is the latest in a series of coups that have challenged governments with ties to France, the region’s former coloniser. 

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, whose country has 400 soldiers in Gabon, said: “We are following the situation in Gabon closely.″

The coup in Gabon is the eighth in west and central Africa since 2020.

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