A military group announced Wednesday that it was putting "an end to the current regime" in Gabon, where the official results of Saturday's presidential election had just handed a new victory to President Ali Bongo, in power for 14 years.
After the electoral authority, the Gabonese Elections Centre, officially announced Bongo's victory in the elections with 64.27% of the vote, twelve members of the military appeared on television on the Gabon 24 channel, whose headquarters are located in the presidency itself.
In their communiqué, the military announced the annulment of Saturday's elections and the dissolution of "all institutions" in the west-central African country.
🇬🇦⛏️ #Gabon has more than 2 billion tonnes of iron ore, over 40 tonnes of proven gold reserve – and a range of other rare-earth minerals including lead, zinc, copper, diamonds, niobium, and titanium. https://t.co/4NtUQT9P5R— Prof. Michael Tanchum (@michaeltanchum) August 30, 2023
Warning that a "continued deterioration of social cohesion" threatens to "lead the country into chaos", the military said it had "decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime".
"To this effect, the elections of 26 August and the manipulated results are annulled," announced one of the soldiers speaking on behalf of the group.
"All the institutions of the Republic have been dissolved: the government, the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court," they added.
BREAKING: Gabonese military officers seize power after the reelection of President Ali Bongo.— Cyprian, Is Nyakundi (@C_NyaKundiH) August 30, 2023
"We are putting an end to the current regime," #Gabon soldiers say on TV early Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/TcUJHQFcHW
The military, who said they were speaking on behalf of a "Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions", also announced that the country's borders would remain "closed until further notice".
They called on the population to "remain calm and serene and we reaffirm our commitment to respect Gabon's commitments to the international community".
The military included members of the Republican Guard (GR), the praetorian guard of the presidency recognisable by their green berets, as well as soldiers from the regular army and members of the police.
AFP journalists heard automatic gunfire in the capital Libreville during the declaration.
In their message, the military denounced "irresponsible and unpredictable governance".
The soldiers' action came hours after the electoral authority announced the re-election of President Ali Bongo Ondimba, in power for 14 years, with 64.27% of the vote in Saturday's election.
Ali Bongo was running for a third term, reduced from seven to five years, in Saturday's elections, which included presidential, legislative and municipal elections.
According to results released by the Gabonese Elections Centre (CGE), Bongo's main rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, won 30.77% of the vote.
Ondo had denounced "fraud orchestrated by the Bongo camp" two hours before voting closed, and claimed victory.
Ondo, 69, had been elected eight days before the election by the main opposition party platform, Alternance 2023, after a hard-fought battle between six contenders. The professor of economics at the University of Libreville and former minister of Omar Bongo had only six days to campaign.
The official results of the vote were released at 03:30 in the morning (02:30 GMT) on state television without any prior warning.
The announcement came amid a curfew and a nationwide internet blackout, measures imposed by the government ahead of polls closing on Saturday to prevent the spread of "fake news" and possible "acts of violence".