Military Overthrows Government in Gabon, Cancels Elections and Takes Control

  • Military Takeover in Gabon: Soldiers Announce Seizure of Power and Election Annulment
  • Army cancels elections and seizes power
  • Military officers announce coup in Gabon
  • Gabonese military officers ‘seize power’ after Ali Bongo’s third term re-election

In an unprecedented move, a group of twelve army officers has taken control of the national television broadcast in Gabon to declare a seizure of power. The officers have stated that they are annulling the results of the recent presidential election held on Saturday, which saw President Ali Bongo declared as the victor. The election had been marred by controversy, with allegations of fraud raised by the opposition, as the electoral commission reported that President Bongo had secured just below two-thirds of the votes.

According to BBC, the overthrow, if successful, would mark the end of the Bongo family’s 53-year reign over Gabon. Notably, Gabon is a significant oil producer in Africa, and a vast portion of its land is covered by forests. While the country joined the Commonwealth in June 2022, distinguishing itself as a non-British colony member, the unfolding events may jeopardize its newfound international status.

The soldiers, identifying themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions, appeared on television early on Wednesday, outlining the cancellation of the election results and the dissolution of all national institutions. Additionally, they revealed the closure of the country’s borders “until further notice.” The situation remains fluid and uncertain, as the country’s capital, Libreville, was echoed with the sounds of gunfire following the broadcast.

This potential coup holds broader implications, as it could mark the eighth coup in former French colonies in Africa within the past three years. While previous instances have mostly occurred further north in the Sahel region, often linked with the challenge of Islamist insurgency, this development raises concerns about democratic governance and civilian protection.

International attention has swiftly turned to the situation. The French Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, noted that France is closely monitoring the events, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned that a military takeover would amplify instability across Africa. Corporations with vested interests in Gabon, like the French mining group Eramet, have already suspended operations due to security concerns.

In their televised address, one of the soldiers emphasized their intention to restore peace and put an end to the current regime, attributing the decision to what they described as “irresponsible, unpredictable governance” that has exacerbated social divisions and risks plunging the country into chaos.

The whereabouts of President Ali Bongo remain unknown, and there has been no immediate response from the government to the soldiers’ announcement. The situation remains fluid, and while internet access has been restored after being suspended post-election, a curfew has been implemented.

The recent election had already been mired in controversy, with opposition candidate Albert Ondo Ossa alleging irregularities such as missing ballot papers with his name and the presence of withdrawn candidates’ names on the ballot sheets. Furthermore, foreign media were barred from covering the election by Reporters Without Borders.

Ali Bongo

President Ali Bongo’s previous election victories were met with accusations of fraud, and this time, last-minute changes to voting procedures further heightened suspicions. Ali Bongo ascended to power in 2009 following his father Omar’s death. His tenure has been marked by challenges, including a stroke in 2018 that incapacitated him for nearly a year and sparked calls for his resignation. In 2019, a failed coup attempt resulted in the imprisonment of mutinous soldiers.

As developments continue to unfold, Gabon stands on the precipice of a new era, with the uncertain outcome of this military takeover hanging in the balance.

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