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Video of Gabon’s ex-senate president arrested in 2023 ‘trying to escape his country’ with bags full of money? No, incident took place in 2022, is of a different leader

IN SHORT: A video circulating after the Gabon coup claims to show the 2023 arrest of the country’s former senate president. But the individual shown was detained in 2022 and was the former president of Gabon's national assembly.

A video doing the rounds on social media since August 2023 claims to show Gabon’s former senate president trying to escape the country with suitcases full of money. 

The video began circulating during and after the country’s 26 August election period and the subsequent military coup

It shows a grey-haired man trying to prevent uniformed men from opening a suitcase on an open pick-up truck. There are several suitcases on the truck bed. Despite the man's efforts, the uniformed men go ahead and open the suitcases, revealing stacks of cash inside. 

A few onlookers can be seen capturing the incident on their mobile phones.

The video is captioned: “Former senate president of Gabon was arrested with a huge amount of CFA currency trying to escape from his country.” 

It has been reposted several times, including here, here, here, here, here and here. Jointly, the posts have garnered over one million views. 


The Gabon coup

Following the controversial re-election of Ali Bongo for a third term as president, he was overthrown in a military coup on 30 August. The coup leader, Brice Oligui Nguema, was named the transitional president of the country. 

The coup has been internationally condemned, including by the United Nations. It has also raised concerns about the credibility of the disputed earlier elections. Following the coup, the African Union suspended Gabon’s membership.

Recent coups in African countries

Since 2020, coups have taken place in seven African countries. All but Sudan were once French colonies. Experts have pointed to rising anti-French sentiment in former colonies as one of the factors contributing to the coups, alongside other reasons such as poverty, poor governance and ineffective civil society.

The video, which supposedly shows a senior political leader attempting to leave the country with bags of money, may be more worrying given its increased circulation around the time of the disputed election and subsequent coup. 

But what does the video show? We checked.

Incident happened in 2022

A reverse image search of the video's keyframes reveals that the incident took place in September 2022 and shows Guy Nzouba Ndama, a former speaker of Gabon's national assembly.

Rather than fleeing the country, he was returning to Gabon from neighbouring Republic of the Congo with an estimated US$2 million in CFA francs. Ndama was at the time also president of the opposition party the Democrats.

He was arrested and later placed under house arrest on charges of violating import controls and conspiring with a foreign power. Both the former and current senate presidents are women, with Lucie Milebou Aubusson succeeding Rose Francine Rogombé.

Claims that the video shows the arrest of a former Gabonese senate president and that the arrest was in 2023 are false.

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