Gabon, a West African nation rich in oil and minerals, has been plunged into political turmoil after a group of soldiers attempted to overthrow President Ali Bongo, who was declared the winner of a disputed election on Monday.
The coup, which was announced on state radio early Wednesday morning, triggered a sharp sell-off in Gabon’s international bonds and the shares of European companies operating in the country, as investors feared for the stability and security of the nation.
Gabon’s dollar bonds due 2025 and 2031 lost about a tenth of their market value as European trading began, posting the biggest declines among emerging-market peers. The yield on the bonds due 2025 nearly doubled to 20%, the highest since they were sold in 2015.
The shares of mining group Eramet SA, oil-and-gas producer Maurel & Prom and a listed unit of TotalEnergies SE also fell in Paris amid surging volumes. Eramet SA, which owns a manganese mine in Gabon, dropped as much as 7.6%, while Maurel & Prom, which has oil operations in the country, slid as much as 6.9%. TotalEnergies SE, which has a stake in an offshore oil field in Gabon, declined as much as 1.4%.
The coup leaders, who identified themselves as the Patriotic Movement of the Defense and Security Forces of Gabon, said they were acting to restore democracy and end the “illegitimate” rule of Bongo, who has been in power since 2009. They claimed that Bongo was “incapacitated” and “unable to fulfill his duties” after suffering a stroke in 2018.
The coup leaders also accused Bongo of rigging the election results, which showed that he won a third term with 64.27% of the vote, while his main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, had secured 30.77%. The opposition denounced the election as fraudulent and called for a recount.
However, the coup attempt was swiftly foiled by loyalist forces, who stormed the state radio station where the rebels had made their announcement and arrested several of them. The government spokesman said that the situation was under control and that order had been restored.
The African Union and several regional and international powers condemned the coup attempt and expressed their support for Bongo’s legitimacy. They also urged all parties to respect the constitutional order and resolve any disputes peacefully.
Gabon is one of Africa’s wealthiest nations per capita, thanks to its oil reserves and mineral deposits. However, it also suffers from widespread poverty, inequality and corruption. Bongo’s family has ruled the country for more than half a century, since his father Omar Bongo took power in 1967.
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