A group of Gabonese military officials made a televised appearance on Wednesday, declaring the termination of the existing regime and the annulment of an election that had officially declared President Ali Bongo Ondimba as the victor.
As the announcement was broadcast, sounds of gunfire reverberated through the Gabonese capital, Libreville, as reported by AFP journalists. One of the officers, while proclaiming the cancellation of the election results, stated that “all institutions of the republic” had been dissolved.
The statement was delivered by an officer, accompanied by a contingent of about a dozen army colonels, members of the elite Republican Guard, regular soldiers, and other individuals. This announcement followed closely on the heels of the national election authority’s declaration that Bongo had secured a third term in the Saturday election with 64.27 percent of the votes.
President Bongo has held power in the resource-rich West African nation for 14 years. The addressing officer conveyed that the nation was undergoing a grave crisis encompassing institutional, political, economic, and social aspects. He pointed out that the recent election had failed to meet the prerequisites for a transparent, credible, and inclusive voting process, as desired by the Gabonese people.
“We have chosen to safeguard peace by bringing an end to the present regime,” declared the officer, speaking on behalf of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions.” The statement was broadcasted on the public television channel Gabon 1 as well.
“In light of this objective, we hereby invalidate the general elections of August 26, 2023, along with the incomplete results,” he further added. The officer also announced the dissolution of all state institutions, including the government, Senate, National Assembly, and Constitutional Court, while also declaring the closure of the nation’s borders “until further notice.”
The outcomes announced prior to the officers’ address indicated that President Bongo’s primary contender, Albert Ondo Ossa, secured only 30.77 percent of the votes. Even before the polls had concluded on Saturday, Ondo Ossa had accused Bongo of “fraud,” asserting his own legitimate victory. During the election process, Bongo’s administration had imposed a curfew and a nationwide internet blackout to curb the propagation of “false information” and the potential for violence.
On Monday, Mike Jocktane, the campaign manager for Ondo Ossa, urged President Bongo to relinquish power “peacefully,” asserting that a preliminary count showed Ondo Ossa leading, although no concrete evidence was provided. It’s worth noting that Gabonese law prohibits the dissemination of partial results until the final outcome is released, a responsibility reserved exclusively for the Gabonese Elections Centre, the entity responsible for organizing the elections.