A group of military officers claiming to represent “Defence and Security forces” in Gabon announced on Wednesday they had seized power in the African nation.
The Military junta deposed President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who was declared winner of Saturday’s election.
The development comes amid the unresolved crisis in Niger Republic following the removal of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
Both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Union (AU), which have rejected the coup in Niger, are yet to react to the situation in Gabon.
Bongo, who came to power after the death of his father in 2009, won a third term in an election which opposition argued was heavily disputed.
According to reports, 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.
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 raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process.
The soldiers appeared on Gabonese national television to say they had taken power and annulled Saturday’s election.
The more than a dozen Gabonese soldiers announced they were “putting an end to the current regime” and the cancellation of an election that, according to official results, President Ali Bongo Ondimba won.
During the announcement, AFP journalists heard gunfire ring out in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
While announcing the cancellation of the results, one of the soldiers said “all the institutions of the Republic” had been dissolved.
“We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime”, one of the soldiers said on TV channel Gabon 24, adding that he was speaking on behalf of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions”.
“To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled,” he added.
“All the institutions of the Republic are dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court,” he added, announcing the closure of the country’s borders “until further notice”.
Among the soldiers were members of the Republican Guard as well as soldiers of the regular army and police officers.
The statement was also broadcast on Gabon 1 public television.
AFP journalists heard gunfire in several districts of Libreville during the statement.
The announcement came shortly after the national election authority said Bongo, who has been in power for 14 years, had won a third term in Saturday’s election with 64.27 per cent of the vote.
Bongo’s main rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, won just 30.77 per cent of the vote, according to the results.
Ondo Ossa had denounced “fraud orchestrated by the Bongo camp”, claiming victory ahead of the closure of polls.
On Monday, Ondo Ossa’s campaign manager, Mike Jocktane, called on Bongo to hand over power “without bloodshed”, insisting a partial count had Ondo Ossa clearly ahead, without providing any proof.
Gabonese law forbids any publication of partial results, pending the final result which only the Gabonese Elections Centre, the body that organises the polls, is legally allowed to publish.
The official election results were broadcast at 03:30 (02:30 GMT) on state television without any prior announcement of the event.
Before polls closed on Saturday, Bongo’s government imposed a curfew and a nationwide internet shutdown to prevent the spread of “false news” and possible violence, according to Libreville.