Barely a month after Niger’s Coup, Army officers in Gabon , on Wednesday, appeared on national television to announce they have taken over power in the Central African country, claiming the recent general election lacks credibility
According to Reuters reports., the military officers said they were annulling the results of Saturday’s election, in which President Ali Bongo was declared the winner. All borders closed until further notice and state institutions dissolved. Loud sounds of gunfire could be heard in the capital, Libreville, a Reuters reporter said, after the television appearance.
The soldiers who introduced themselves as members of the CTRI (The Committee of Transition and Restoration of Institutions) said, “We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the regime in power.”
It was not immediately possible to reach the government for comment.
Gabon’s incumbent president, Ali Bongo, won a third term in the presidential election with 64.27% of the vote, the Gabonese election centre said on Wednesday, after a delay-plagued general election that the opposition denounced as fraudulent.
Announcing the result in the early hours, the elections head, Michel Stephane Bonda, said Bongo’s main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, came second with 30.77%. Bongo’s team rejected Ondo Ossa’s allegations of electoral irregularities.
Tensions were running high amid fears of unrest after Saturday’s presidential, parliamentary and legislative vote, which saw Bongo seeking to extend his family’s 56-year grip on power while the opposition pushed for change in the oil and cocoa-rich but poverty-stricken nation.
A lack of international observers, the suspension of some foreign broadcasts, and the authorities’ decision to cut internet service and impose a night-time curfew nationwide after the poll had raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process.
As one officer read the joint statement on television, around a dozen others stood silently behind him in military fatigues and berets.
The group have declared themselves members of the “committee of transition and the restoration of institutions”. The state institutions they declared dissolved included the government, the senate, the national assembly, the constitutional court and the election body.
If successful, the coup would represent the eighth in west and central Africa since 2020. Coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger have all undermined democratic progress.
In July, the military snatched power in Niger, sending shockwaves across the Sahel and sucking in global powers with strategic interests at stake.
Bongo, 64, who succeeded his father Omar as president in 2009, had 18 challengers, six of whom backed Ondo Ossa in an effort to narrow the race.
In 2016, the parliament building was torched when violent street protests erupted against Bongo’s contested re-election for his second term. The government shut down internet access for several days at the time.