A group of Gabonese military officers appeared on television Wednesday announcing they were “putting an end to the current regime” and cancelling an election that, according to official results, President Ali Bongo Ondimba won.
During the announcement, AFP journalists heard gunfire ring out in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
While announcing the cancellation of the vote results one of the officers said “all the institutions of the republic” had been dissolved.
The address was read by an officer flanked by a group of a dozen army colonels, members of the elite Republican Guard, regular soldiers and others.
It came moments after the national election authority said Bongo had won a third term in Saturday’s election with 64.27 percent of the vote.
Bongo has been in power for 14 years in the oil-rich West African country.
“Today, the country is going through a serious institutional, political, economic and social crisis,” the officer said on TV channel Gabon 24.
He said the recent election “did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon.”
“We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” the officer said, adding that he was speaking on behalf of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions”.
The statement was also broadcast on Gabon 1 public television.
“To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled,” he added.
“All the institutions of the republic are dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court,” he added, announcing the closure of the country’s borders “until further notice”.
According to the results issued prior to the officers’ announcement, Bongo’s main rival Albert Ondo Ossa won just 30.77 percent of the vote.
Before polls closed on Saturday, Ondo Ossa had accused Bongo of “fraud” while claiming he was the rightful winner.
While the election was under way, Bongo’s government imposed a curfew and a nationwide internet shutdown to prevent the spread of “false news” and possible violence.
On Monday, Ondo Ossa’s campaign manager Mike Jocktane called on Bongo to hand over power “without bloodshed”, insisting a partial count had Ondo Ossa clearly ahead, without providing any proof.
Gabonese law forbids any publication of partial results pending the final result which only the Gabonese Elections Centre, the body that organises the polls, is legally allowed to publish.
Situation remains unclear
The situation in the capital wasn’t immediately clear, and there was no word from the president.
The mutinous officers vowed to respect “Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.”
China calls for safety of Gabon’s President Bongo to be guaranteed
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Wednesday: “We are following the situation in Gabon closely.”
Gabon is a member of the OPEC oil cartel, with a production of some 181,000 barrels of crude a day, making it the eighth-largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa. It is home to over 2 million people