After the state electoral commission declared President Ali Bongo Ondimba had won a third term, a group of top Gabon military soldiers emerged on national television early on Wednesday and claimed to have taken over.
The officers claimed to speak for all of the country’s security and military forces when they appeared on a Gabonese television network, Gabon 24. They claimed that state institutions had been disbanded, the election results had been annulled, and all borders had been blocked indefinitely.
After the television appearance, loud shooting could be heard in Libreville, the country’s capital, according to Reuters.
However, there was no immediate comment from the government of the OPEC-member nation.
“In the name of the Gabonese people … we have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime,” the officers said.
The coup would represent the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020. Coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger have undermined democratic progress in recent years.
Last month, the military snatched power in Niger, sending shockwaves across the Sahel and sucking in global powers with strategic interests at stake.
Tensions in Gabon soared following the presidential, parliamentary, and legislative vote, where Bongo sought to prolong his family’s power, while the opposition sought change.
The lack of international observers, suspension of foreign broadcasts, and internet service cuts raised concerns about the transparency of the electoral process, leading to nationwide curfews and internet service cuts.
Bongo, 64, contested for president in 2009 against 18 challengers, six of whom supported a joint nominee, Albert Ondo Ossa. His team rejected allegations of fraud.
In 2016, violent street protests led to the parliament building being torched, and the government shutting down internet access for several days.