The Gabon Coup and the Continuation of Bongo Clan Rule

The recent military takeover in Gabon has raised hopes among the opposition and the people of Gabon that it might bring an end to the Bongo clan’s 55-year rule. However, a source close to the deposed president has revealed that the coup is merely a continuation of the Bongo family’s grip on power. The source, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, said that General Brice Oligui Nguema, the leader of the military uprising, is a direct product of the Bongo clan. This revelation has dampened the initial optimism surrounding the coup, and highlights the need for caution in expecting significant changes in the political landscape of Gabon.

The opposition, led by Albert Ondo Ossa, has described the coup as a “palace revolution” orchestrated by the Bongo family to retain their power. Ossa’s coalition, Alternance 2023, claims to be the rightful winner of the disputed election and has called on the international community to push for a return to civilian rule. They view the proposed swearing-in of General Nguema as a transitional president as “absurd”. This sentiment is shared by Alexandra Pangha, Ossa’s spokesperson, who stated that the international community should stand in favor of the republic and democratic order in Gabon by demanding the military to relinquish power to civilians.

The military coup has been met with condemnation by the United Nations, neighboring countries, and France, which has historical ties to the Bongo family as Gabon’s former colonial power. Gabon has also been suspended from the African Union in response to the coup. These statements of disapproval indicate the international community’s concern over the continuation of the Bongo clan’s rule through the military takeover.

General Nguema, in a televised address, assured a swift restoration of civilian rule but refrained from providing a timeline. He expressed the intention to avoid repeating the mistakes of previous elections by keeping the same people in power. However, the anonymous source challenges the notion of a significant change, emphasizing that General Nguema is closely tied to the Bongo family and has been a key figure within the clan. The source suggests that the military takeover caught their team by surprise, but rumors about General Nguema disrupting the hierarchy had circulated for two years. It is also revealed that General Nguema made a promise to the late Omar Bongo, Ali Bongo’s father and former president, to look after the family. However, upon Ali Bongo’s assumption of power, General Nguema was sent away to serve at Gabonese embassies in Morocco and Senegal. His return in 2019 signaled his realization that the power circle had expanded beyond the close members of the family, threatening the Bongo clan’s control of the state.

While the coup has ignited celebrations among the Gabonese populace who seek liberation from the Bongo family’s rule, the source warns against complacency. They argue that the coup is essentially a continuation of the same system, just under a different name. The arresting of members of the Bongo family and their allies, including Ali Bongo’s son Noureddin Bongo Valentin, is seen as a theatrical display of strength by General Nguema rather than a genuine effort to eradicate corruption. The source advises the Gabonese people to remain vigilant, despite the hope that the transition leader brought back to the country.

The international community’s response, the political dynamics within Gabon, and the continued influence of the Bongo clan on the military indicate that the coup will not lead to significant changes in the governance of Gabon. It further highlights the importance of closely monitoring the developments in Gabon and pushing for genuine democratic reforms that truly break the cycle of the Bongo clan’s rule. Gabon’s future remains uncertain, and it is crucial to recognize the complexities and challenges of political transitions before celebrating what appears to be a change in power.

(Mentioned articles: “Macron looks on as France’s Africa policy crumbles,” “Why young Africans are celebrating military takeovers,” “Gabon’s unexpected new strongman,” “Simple guide to what’s happening in Gabon”)