Military Coup in Gabon Ends 66 Years of Dynastic Politics

Gabon went under a military coup following President Ali Bongo's re-election on 30 Aug 2023. The coup was led by Gabon's Army Chief, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema.

Gabon went under a military coup following President Ali Bongo’s re-election on 30 Aug 2023. The coup was led by Gabon’s Army Chief, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, who has now been named as a transitional leader.

Gabon is the second country to face a coup in 2023 after Niger, which went in a similar ordeal on July 26, 2023.

Chronology of the Gabon Coup

The presidential elections held on Aug 26, 2023, and Ali Bongo was declared as the winner(with 64.27% of all votes) just past the midnight on 30 Aug 2023, at 3:30 AM West Africa Time.

Albert Ondo Ossa, the runner up of the election, along with several opposition leaders alleged electoral fraud and irregularities. The country was then immediately placed under curfew by the government to stop the spread of any “false news” and potential violence.

The coup began on the same day, when the election results were declared. Ali Bongo, who has been ruling the country since 2009, and after taking over from president Omar Bondo, his father, who ruled the country since 1967 till his death in 2009.

Army personnel announced on national television that they had seized the power and the president had been put under hour arrest with access to his family and his doctors. His son, Noureddin, was arrested for high treason.

People Celebrating the Coup, Source Reuters
People Celebrating the Coup, Source Reuters

The primary reason for the coup was the long serving Bongo father and son, and their control over Gabonese politics.

Probable Reasons for the Coup

Long standing dynastic politics coupled with corruption and nepotism could have been the core reasons of the coup.

President Omar Bongo’s rule saw the suspicious death of several opposition leaders like Joseph Rendjambe (1990).

Further, Omar Bongo’s several close associates were appointed as high ranking officials in the government and the military. Idris Ngari rapidly rose through the ranks of the military possibly for being a close relative of Omar.

Another most convincing reason for the coup was the medical induced absence of Ali Bongo who has been ill and away from the country on several accounts. One of the most famous incident was his medical absence from the country since October 2018 which was followed by his death rumors until in January 2019 when he addressed his country through a video.


Gabon has been a single party state since 1968 following a presidential decree. This is also when the Gabonese Independence Party, Bloc Democratique Gabonais was renamed as the Parti Democratique Gabonais or the Gabonese Democratic Party. It was then led by Omar Bongo, who has ruled the country since 1967 till his death in 2009.

Omar Bongo, President of Gabon since 1967-2009

Though multiparty elections were introduced in 1990, after heavy strikes, riots and unrest, the National Assembly approved constitutional amendments to transform Gabon to a multiparty political system.

Joseph Rendjambe, a vocal critic of Omar Bongo was found dead in a hotel the same year, reportedly poisoned. Rendjambe was a leader of the Parti Gabonais du Progres (PGP). His death sparked off the worst rioting since 1967.

Omar Bongo Again won the election in Dec 1993, now under a multiparty political system, with a 51.4% vote share. Opposition candidates refused to legitimize the election which again kicked off rioting and protests. This ultimately led to the Paris Accordds on 1994.

The PDG, Bongo’s party again won landslide victory in 1996 legislative elections. This time, Bongo offered his opposition leaders and money(bribe) and high ranking posts in the government to secure their confidence. This ensured his comfortable re-election in the presidential elections of 1998.

Ali Bongo became the president of Gabon followed by his father’s death. He had earlier served in the Foreign(1989-1991) and Defence Ministries(2006-2007, 2009).

He won the election of the President in August 2009 with 42% of the votes. Following doubts raised by opposition, the Constitutional court, he was declared as the winner with recounted votes of 41.79%.

Gabon faced a similar military coup in 2019, but the attempt failed.

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