President Ali Bongo of Gabon was told late on Tuesday that he’d won a presidential election to keep him in power for a third term, the first of which he was handed by his father in 2009. The army was having none of it. Soon after midnight it announced a coup and curfew. General Brice Nguema, former head of the presidential guard, was named head of a transitional committee, and yesterday jubilant crowds filled the streets of Libreville, the capital. This is not how democracy was supposed to conquer Africa. Gabon’s is the eighth military coup in West and Central Africa in the past three years, and the second (after Niger’s) in two months. Bongo appealed for allies to “make noise” in his defence, in a video filmed in his residence where he appears to be under de facto house arrest. But if the pattern unfolding across the region is any guide no allies will be riding to his rescue. The Bongo dynasty’s control of this oil-rich country appears to be over after nearly 60 years. Questions include what France will do with the 350 troops it has stationed in Libreville, and whether any new regime will preserve or undo the Bongos’ one positive legacy of leaving Gabon’s rainforest largely intact.
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