A group of military officers in Gabon announced on television this Wednesday that the presidential elections in which Ali Bongo Ondimba was re-elected on Saturday had been annulled and all democratic institutions dissolved.
The announcement was made in a press release read by about a dozen Gabonese soldiers on Gabon 24, a television channel owned by the country’s presidency. Army has also announced to close all borders of the country.
“After observing the irresponsible and unpredictable administration, which continues to disrupt social cohesion and risk leading the country into chaos, it has been decided to end the existing regime and keep the peace,” said one of the soldiers. .
The same army, saying it was speaking on behalf of the “Committee for Transition and Institutional Restructuring”, said all borders in Gabon “will remain closed until further notice”.
According to journalists from the Agence France-Presse, automatic machine gun fire was heard during a television broadcast in Libreville. The whereabouts of Bongo, who was last seen in public on Saturday during the election, remain unknown, Reuters reported.
A few hours ago, at 3:30 a.m. (same time in Lisbon), the Electoral Center of Gabon (CGE, its French acronym) published on state television, without any prior notice, the official results of the presidential election.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who has been in power for 14 years, won a third term in Saturday’s election with 64.27% of the vote, defeating main challenger Albert Ondo Osa who got 30.77%, the Electoral Commission said.
The announcement comes as the government-imposed measures on Saturday, election day, come at a time when Gabon remains under a curfew and internet access is suspended across the country.
Following reports from Ondo Ossa demanding to be declared the winner, the government raised the risk of violence. As of this Wednesday, according to AFP, internet has already been restored in the country.
For the third night in a row, the army and police set up roadblocks across the capital to enforce the curfew.
On polling day, two hours before the polls closed, the main Gabonese opposition denounced electoral fraud and demanded recognition of Ondo Osa’s victory.
On Monday, at a press conference in Libreville, Ondo Ossa’s campaign manager, Mike Jocktane, said Bongo should accept “a transfer of power without bloodshed”.
In 2019, a group of players announced the removal of Bongo, who suffered a heart attack a few months earlier, even occupying a radio station. However, hours later, two of the rebels were shot dead and the rest arrested, ending the coup attempt.
In Saturday’s elections, Ali Bongo looks to extend the dynasty he owns and has controlled Gabon for more than half a century. Ali Bongo became president in 2009 after his father Omar Bongo died after 42 years in power.
In the two elections Ali Bongo won, there were numerous complaints of electoral fraud by his opponents, but since most public institutions were controlled by regime loyalists, there was no independent record of these allegations.
In Saturday’s elections, Ondo Osa’s campaign made several allegations of irregularities during voting, including the late opening of polling stations or the absence of ballot papers bearing the opposition leader’s name. Participation of any international mission of election observers is not authorized.
If the coup in Gabon is confirmed, it would be the eighth in the Central and West African region in the past three years, following the overthrow of the leaders of Mali, Guinea-Conakry, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger.
News of a possible coup in Gabon was received with trepidation by the European Union. “If confirmed, this is a new military coup that will increase instability throughout the region,” said Joseph Borrell, the EU’s high commissioner for foreign policy, at the entrance to a meeting of European defense ministers in Toledo, Spain. “This is an important issue for Europe,” he added.
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