30th August, 2023- In a televised declaration, a group of senior military officers from Gabon have taken control of the country, asserting that the recent general election lacks legitimacy. The officers, purporting to represent Gabon’s security and defense forces, conveyed their concerns to the nation via national television.
During their announcement, they revealed the annulment of the election outcomes, the closure of all borders until further notice, and the dissolution of state institutions. The capital city, Libreville, experienced audible gunfire following their broadcast, as reported by a correspondent from Reuters.
Efforts to reach the government for a response were unsuccessful at that moment.
“On behalf of the Gabonese populace, we have chosen to safeguard peace by terminating the present regime,” stated the officers during their televised message.
‘We are finally on the road to happiness’
Gabon’s army officers who claimed to have seized power say the country is “on the road to happiness”, adding that Libreville will respect its commitments “to the national and international community”.
“We call for calm and serenity from the public, the communities of sister countries settled in Gabon, and the Gabonese diaspora,” an officer reading a statement on state TV said.
“We reaffirm our commitment to respecting Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community,” he added.
“People of Gabon, we are finally on the road to happiness.”
The incumbent president of Gabon, Ali Bongo, secured a third presidential term with a reported 64.27% of the vote, according to the Gabonese election center’s announcement on Wednesday. However, this general election had been plagued by delays and vehemently contested by the opposition, who alleged fraudulent activities.
Michel Stephane Bonda, the head of the elections, announced the results during the early hours, indicating that Albert Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s primary rival, secured second place with 30.77% of the vote. Bongo’s team rejected Ondo Ossa’s accusations of electoral improprieties.
Tensions escalated due to concerns of potential unrest following the combined presidential, parliamentary, and legislative voting on Saturday. Bongo aimed to extend his family’s 56-year reign over the nation rich in oil and cocoa, while the opposition sought transformative change for the impoverished nation.
Doubts about the transparency of the electoral process emerged due to the absence of international observers, suspension of foreign broadcasts, internet shutdowns, and the imposition of a nationwide curfew following the election.
As one officer delivered the joint statement on television, a group of around twelve stood in uniformed solidarity behind him, adorned in military attire.
Identifying themselves as members of the “committee of transition and the restoration of institutions,” the group proclaimed the dissolution of various state entities. These included the government, the senate, the national assembly, the constitutional court, and the election body.
Should their efforts succeed, this coup would mark the eighth incident in West and Central Africa since 2020. Prior coups in nations such as Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger have collectively undermined democratic progress.
In July, Niger experienced a military takeover, sending ripples across the Sahel region and attracting the attention of global powers with vested interests.
Ali Bongo, 64, who ascended to the presidency in 2009 following his father Omar’s tenure, faced eighteen challengers in this election. Six among them supported Ondo Ossa, aiming to consolidate the race.
A history of civil unrest was evident in 2016 when violent street protests erupted against Bongo’s disputed re-election for his second term, leading to the torching of the parliament building. During that period, the government enforced an internet blackout for several days.