A group of military officers from Gabon made a televised appearance, announcing their takeover of power and alleging that the recent general elections were lacking in credibility. The announcement was made on national television after the electoral authorities declared that Ali Bongo Ondimba had won a third term. The president was later placed under house arrest by his presidential guard.
The officers claimed to represent all security and defense forces in Gabon. These twelve soldiers declared the nullification of election results and the dissolution of “all republic institutions” and declared their actions were motivated by a desire to safeguard peace, as they believed the current regime’s governance was characterized by irresponsibility and unpredictability, leading to a continuous decline in social cohesion that posed a risk of plunging the country into chaos. The military also declared the closure of all borders until further notice. Following their televised appearance, gunfire was reported in the capital city, Libreville.
The military stated on television, “In the name of the Gabonese people, we have decided to defend the peace by putting end to the current regime.” The incumbent President of Gabon, Ali Bongo, had secured a third term in the presidential election with 64.27% of the vote, according to Gabon’s electoral center. This came after a general election marred by delays and criticized by the opposition as fraudulent. Michel Stephane Bonda, the head of the electoral commission, announced the results in the early hours, with Bongo’s main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, securing second place with 30.77% of the vote. Bongo’s team rejected allegations of electoral irregularities raised by Ondo Ossa.
Concerns were mounting amid fears of further social unrest following the election, which included presidential, parliamentary, and legislative votes. Bongo sought to extend his family’s more than 50-year grip on power. The opposition had been advocating for change in the resource-rich but economically challenged nation. The absence of international observers, the suspension of foreign media channels, and the authorities’ decision to cut internet access and impose a nationwide nighttime state of emergency after the presidential poll raised doubts about the transparency of the electoral process.
Later in the day, Gabon’s ousted president has reached out for assistance from his residence, where he was arrested. In a video that has been widely circulated on social media, Bongo confirmed his detention. He urged citizens to “raise their voices” in response to the coup attempt, stating that he was at the presidential palace, while his wife and children were elsewhere. The head of his presidential guard announced that the president has “been placed in retirement”, becoming an ordinary Gabonese citizen.
The coup leaders, on the other hand, asserted that his family were present with him at his residence.
Ali Bongo ascended to power following the death of his father, Omar, in 2009. He was the president of Gabon for 42 years.