After Niger, it is Gabon’s turn to be the scene of a coup. Just after the official announcement overnight of Ali Bongo’s victory with 64.27% of the vote, a group of a dozen soldiers appeared on the screens of the Gabon 24 television channel, housed within the Presidency.
“We, the defense and security forces, gathered within the Committee for the Transition and the Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), on behalf of the Gabonese people and guarantor of the protection of institutions, have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the regime in place”, announced one of these soldiers, colonel of the regular army, in a statement also broadcast later on the state channel Gabon 1st.
“To this effect, the general elections of August 26, 2023 as well as the truncated results are cancelled,” he added. Among the soldiers were members of the Republican Guard (GR), an elite unit and Praetorian Guard of the presidency recognizable by their green berets, as well as regular army soldiers and police officers.
Ali Bongo “under house arrest”
China called for “guaranteeing Ali Bongo’s security” while France, a former colonial power, said, through government spokesman Olivier Véran, “to condemn the military coup which is in progress”.
The President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba is “under house arrest” surrounded by his family and his doctors and one of his sons has been arrested, in particular for “high treason”, announced at the end of the morning the soldiers who carried out the coup. of state.
“President Ali Bongo is being kept under house arrest, surrounded by his family and his doctors,” according to a press release read on state television by soldiers from the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI).
This coup occurred in the middle of a curfew and while the internet was cut throughout the country… Two measures decreed by the government on Saturday before the closing of the polling stations in order to ward off, according to him, possible “violence “. Internet was restored shortly after 07:00 GMT.
Shortly after the soldiers’ statement was read, AFP journalists heard automatic gunfire in several neighborhoods of Libreville. These sporadic shots quickly ceased.
The soldiers considered in particular that the organization of the elections had “not fulfilled the conditions for a transparent ballot” and denounced “an irresponsible, unpredictable governance, which results in a continuous deterioration of social cohesion, risking to lead the country into chaos. They announced the dissolution of all the country’s institutions and the closure of Gabon’s borders “until further notice”.
“Gabon is liberated”
In the working-class Plein Ciel district of Libreville, not far from the center, Gabonese were shouting this Wednesday morning: “It’s liberation! or even “Bongo out!” “. To the sound of horns, they greeted and applauded police in riot gear with their faces masked. Soldiers in a pick-up raised their arms in victory and were applauded by the crowd.
In the well-to-do district of Akanda, not far from Ali Bongo’s residence, residents stood on their doorsteps, not daring to go out, laughing soldiers from an elite unit asking them to go home.
In Port-Gentil, the economic capital, on the Place du Château d’eau located in a working-class district and traditional bastion of the opposition, hundreds of people honked their horns, shouting “Gabon is liberated”. Some were dancing with uniformed police and soldiers, reported Ousmane Manga, a freelance journalist.
The activities of the French mining group Eramet have also been “put to a halt” in the country, where some 8,000 people, mostly Gabonese, are employed.
“Frauds orchestrated by Camp Bongo”
Ali Bongo, 64, was elected in 2009 after the death of his father Omar Bongo Ondimba, who had ruled Gabon for more than 41 years. The opposition has regularly denounced the perpetuation of a “Bongo dynasty” of more than 55 years to date.
Ali Bongo was seeking a third term, reduced from 7 to 5 years, in Saturday’s elections which included three ballots, presidential, legislative and municipal.
A few moments before the irruption of the soldiers on the screens, the official results of the elections had been shelled in the middle of the night, at 3:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. GMT), on state television without any prior announcement. According to these results, Ali Bongo’s main rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, won only 30.77% of the presidential vote, and the twelve other candidates only won crumbs.
Albert Ondo Ossa had denounced “fraud orchestrated by the Bongo camp” two hours before the close of the poll on Saturday, and then already claimed victory. He had been chosen only eight days before the election by the main opposition party platform, Alternance 2023.
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