On the morning of 30 August 2023, a group of 12 military officers announced on TV that they had seized power in Gabon, claiming that the elections held over the weekend were rigged. The officers cancelled the election results, closed the country’s borders and dissolved the state institutions.
The Saturday elections saw current President Ali Bongo win a third term. He is the son of Omar Bongo, who led Gabon between 1967 and 2009. The Bongo family has ruled Gabon for 56 years. Ali Bongo’s whereabouts are not known. His rule was challenged twice: in 2016 when he won the second presidential term, street protests erupted; and in 2019, a group of military officers failed to topple him during a coup.
As of now, there are no signs that the Wagnerites are involved in the coup. However, the military junta that seized power banned French media outlets France 24, RFI and TV5 Monde – which could be an early sign that this coup has a strong anti-French component, just like the ones in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger. It could be realistically asserted that Wagnerites (or other Russian PMC) might be in contact with the junta leaders as of the moment of writing this document, to pledge their support. Especially as Gabon is rich in resources such as manganese, diamonds, gold, and uranium.
This was the eighth coup in west and central Africa since 2020, following the ones in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso (2), Chad and Niger.