A group of army officers in Gabon has declared a coup, claiming to have taken power and annulling the results of the recent presidential election. The military takeover was announced on national television by twelve soldiers who appeared early on Wednesday morning. The officers disclosed that the election results were being cancelled, and all institutions of the republic were being dissolved. They also revealed that the country’s borders had been closed “until further notice.”
The move comes after the opposition alleged that Saturday’s election, which declared President Ali Bongo as the winner, was fraudulent. Bongo was reported to have won just under two-thirds of the votes, an outcome that was met with skepticism from the opposition. If this coup is successful, it will bring an end to the Bongo family’s 53-year hold on power in Gabon.
The military’s announcement sent shockwaves through the country, and the sound of gunfire was heard in the capital city of Libreville. Internet access, which had been suspended after the election, was restored following the apparent coup. A curfew has also been imposed.
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Gabon, a major oil producer in Africa with a significant forest cover, has been historically stable. However, this coup marks the eighth instance of military intervention in former French colonies in Africa in the past three years. The military officers involved identified themselves as members of the “Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions,” representing the security and defense forces of Gabon.
One of the officers stated on Gabon’s TV channel, “We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime,” citing irresponsible governance that led to social deterioration and the risk of chaos.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne expressed concern over the situation, while the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned that a military takeover could lead to increased instability in Africa. The coup also prompted French mining group Eramet to halt its operations in Gabon due to security concerns.
The whereabouts of President Ali Bongo remain unknown, and his current status is uncertain. The military officers declared that Bongo is under house arrest, surrounded by his family and doctors. The officers also reported that one of Bongo’s sons had been arrested for “treason.”
The international community, including former colonial power France, as well as China, and Russia, have voiced concern over the unfolding situation in Gabon. The coup adds a new layer of uncertainty to the political landscape of this oil-rich African nation.