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One World with Zain Asher

Gabon, Africa Opposition Leaders Stage A Military Coup. Aired 12:15- 12:30p ET

Aired August 30, 2023 - 12:15   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, I'm Linda Kinkade. You've been watching CNN's breaking news coverage of Hurricane Idalia. We'll have

much more on that storm in just a moment, but for now, let's check some of the other news-making headlines.

And another military coup in Africa, this time in Gabon. President Ali Bongo Ondimba whose family has had a hold on power for more than half a

century, is under house arrest. Military officers announced the takeover on national television after election officials declared the president had won

a third term in a disputed election. The coup leaders say all government institutions have been dissolved.


KINKADE: In Gabon's capital, some celebrated, but elsewhere there was condemnation. Soldiers were seen hoisting up the man they keep calling

president. However, the leader of the coup says he has not yet declared himself the new head of state.

Our David McKenzie is following the story from Johannesburg and joins us now live. Good to have you on the story. So, David, how did this coup take

place? How did it unfold? And is anyone heeding the president's call for help?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this stage, there are talks of trying to support the president and condemning the coup,

but this cascade of coups that has happened in West and now Central Africa is truly significant, and it was a dramatic day in Gabon.


ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, GABONESE PRESIDENT: -- the President of Gabon and I'm to send a message to all the friends that we have all over the world to tell

them to make noise, to make noise.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): It's an extraordinary appeal in English.

BONGO ONDIMBA: -- and my family --

MCKENZIE (voice-over): -- just hours ago. Ali Bongo seemed untouchable. Now, he's under house arrest. Because of this, in this season of coups, a

group of army officers making a now familiar announcement.

UNKNOWN (through translator): -- have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime. The general elections of August 26,

2023, as well as truncated results, are cancelled.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): On the streets of Libreville, celebrations, shouts of liberation from some, and a scene replayed over and over in recent

months. The coup leaders say that the just concluded polls were not transparent, and said Bango's leadership threatened, quote, chaos.

International observers weren't allowed in, and the internet was curtailed. From former colonist France, a well-practiced response.

OLIVIER VERAN, FRENCH GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON (through translator): France condemns the military coup that is underway in Gabon, and France is closely

monitoring the evolution of the situation on the ground and reiterates its desire to see the results of the election respected once it's known.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Gabon, the latest in a cascade of coups on the African continent. If solidified, it will be the eighth in Central and West

Africa since just 2020. Most of them former French colonies, but each of them a different cocktail of power plays and discontent.

In Gabon, the citizens have lived under a dynastic regime for more than 50 years. Omar Bongo ruled for more than four decades, much of that time spent

in France a critical ally. The elder Bongo, members of his family and confidants, were accused of eye-watering corruption, often linked to OPEC

member Gabon's significant oil wealth. Ali Bongo took over from his father in 2009. He's been praised for conserving Gabon's vast forests and taking

innovative steps to develop carbon credits to combat climate change. But he's faced growing discontent from many, with violence breaking out after

disputed polls in 2016 and an attempted coup three years later.

But these scenes have wider consequences. Many fear that Gabon is not the last domino to fall. African Union and international actors have failed to

effectively counter recent military takeovers, and Bongo's fate in house arrest remains tenuous.

BONGO ONDIMBA: I'm calling you to make noise, to make noise, to make noise really.


MCKENZIE (on-camera): What an extraordinary image that is. The Bongos, the father and son, have ruled that country for more than 50 years, and there

he is making that desperate appeal to the international community. But at this stage, these coups that have happened for different reasons in

different countries, there has been no real success in returning democracy to those countries. And in the case of Gabon, it's also an issue of

democracy that is on paper on some level only. And that is also a factor that needs to be looked at in many of these countries that have faced these

military takeovers. Lynda?

KINKADE: All right. David McKenzie for us from Johannesburg. Thanks for that report. And we are going to take a closer look at the situation in

Gabon. We're joined now by Afolabi Adekaiyaoja from the Center for Democracy and Development. Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So, we now have the president, his son, his chief of staff and at least four other officials under house arrest. What can you tell us about

the general leading this coup?

ADEKAIYAOJA: So, General Nguema has recently been named as the head of the committee for the restoration of the tradition of institutions, which is

the new fancy title for the head of state for Gabon. So, he's been somebody who's been really close to the family, somebody who has risen and who was

also an aid account to his to be now from a president's father when he was in charge. So, he's no stranger to the way that government and the way

structure has been in Gabon.

Now, we've also been able to get reports from other well-done CISO organizations that have been able to see and implicate him in several

purchases and several items, especially in the United States, for the ruling family. So, he has been also involved in a way that the corruption

has been carried out in the country. But what we do not know is the procedure and the process that he's going to go ahead and then how this

particular regime and how this website is going to either lead to a transition to regular elections, either redo the elections or even just how

to move back towards democracy.

KINKADE: And Afolabi, we're just looking at the pictures of celebration, of that general being hoisted above, you know, held up by soldiers on the

ground there. The president, of course, has been described as a playboy prince. His family has been in power for over five decades. What sense are

you getting from people within Gabon about this coup?


ADEKAIYAOJA: Well, there's a lot of surprise. First of all, the fact that this actually has taken place at this time. But then, there's also relief.

I think one of the big things that we hear, lots of coverage didn't focus on before was how contentious the election will go, how difficult it was

for the Bongo family, actually for President Bongo to even play very important role during this campaign. You know, after the trip that he

suffered earlier, he really hasn't been as active or as present in the activities in Gabon. And then also even the controversial decree to the

policy that made sure that presidential candidates are over at its legislative list --


ADEKAIYAOJA: -- which meant that if you were not running with someone or parliament, then you could not have somebody running with you.


ADEKAIYAOJA: So, it was a very big issue, especially with the election was carried out. So --

KINKADE: Afolabi, we have to leave it there, I'm afraid, but we will continue to follow this coup in the coming hours. We appreciate your time.

We are going to return to CNN's coverage of the damage and destruction from Hurricane Idalia.