A group of senior Gabonese military officers has taken control of the country, appearing on national television to declare the seizure of power. They cited concerns over the credibility of the recent general election and claimed to represent the collective security and defense forces of Gabon.
During their televised announcement, the officers announced the cancellation of the election results, the closure of all borders until further notice, and the dissolution of key state institutions. The capital city, Libreville, witnessed loud sounds of gunfire in the aftermath of their declaration.
Efforts to contact the government for a response were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.
“In the name of the Gabonese people … we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime,” the military officers proclaimed on television.
The incumbent president, Ali Bongo, secured a third term in the presidential election, garnering 64.27% of the vote, according to the Gabonese election center’s announcement on Wednesday. However, this election was marred by delays and allegations of fraud from the opposition.
Michel Stephane Bonda, the head of the elections, disclosed that Albert Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s main challenger, came in second with 30.77% of the votes. Bongo’s team rejected Ondo Ossa’s claims of electoral irregularities.
Tensions had been escalating in the aftermath of the multi-tiered election, which included presidential, parliamentary, and legislative votes. Bongo aimed to extend his family’s six-decade-long grip on power, while the opposition sought change in a country rich in oil and cocoa but plagued by poverty.
The electoral process had faced criticism due to a lack of international observers, the suspension of foreign broadcasts, and the imposition of a nationwide nighttime curfew and internet blackout by the authorities.
The military officers, dressed in military fatigues and berets, positioned themselves behind the officer delivering the joint statement. They identified themselves as members of the “committee of transition and the restoration of institutions,” as they dissolved key state entities including the government, the senate, the national assembly, the constitutional court, and the election body.
This move marks the potential eighth coup in West and Central Africa since 2020. Recent coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger have cast shadows over democratic progress in the region.
In July, Niger experienced a military takeover, causing ripples across the Sahel and drawing in global powers with strategic interests in the region.
Ali Bongo, 64, who succeeded his father as president in 2009, faced 18 challengers in the recent election, with six of them backing Ondo Ossa in an attempt to narrow the race.
Notably, in 2016, violent protests erupted against Bongo’s contested re-election for his second term, resulting in the torching of the parliament building. During that period, the government imposed an internet shutdown that lasted several days.
Source: The Guardian