A group of Gabonese military officers took to the airwaves on Wednesday to announce the termination of the current government and dismiss the official election results that had granted President Ali Bongo Ondimba another term in office.
Gunfire rang out in the capital city of Libreville as the officers made their televised declaration, sending shockwaves through the West African nation. The spokesperson, flanked by a cohort of army colonels, members of the elite Republican Guard, and other military personnel, declared the dissolution of all republic institutions.
This dramatic announcement followed the national election authority's proclamation of Ali Bongo's victory with 64.27% of the vote, securing him a third term in office. Bongo's rule has spanned 14 years, succeeding his father who held the presidency for 41 years.
The officers, speaking under the banner of the "Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions," criticized the recent election for lacking transparency, credibility, and inclusiveness. They cited these flaws as the impetus behind their action to end the current government in order to safeguard peace.
The spokesperson went on to reveal that the general elections held on August 26, 2023, were nullified and all associated results were invalidated. The committee's actions extended to dissolving all key institutions, including the government, Senate, National Assembly, and Constitutional Court. The nation's borders were promptly sealed indefinitely.
The announcement occurred during an overnight curfew that had been imposed by Bongo's government as the polls concluded. A concurrent nationwide internet shutdown further fueled speculation and confusion.
At 0600 GMT, the streets of downtown Libreville stood eerily deserted, reflecting the gravity of the situation and the tense atmosphere that prevailed.
President Ali Bongo's chief rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, had already accused Bongo of electoral fraud before the polls closed, asserting his own claim to victory. Ondo Ossa's campaign manager has since urged President Bongo to relinquish power peacefully, citing partial counts that allegedly favored Ondo Ossa.
Gabonese law strictly prohibits the publication of partial election results prior to the official release by the Gabonese Elections Center, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing crisis.
In an attempt to curb the dissemination of "false news" and mitigate the potential for violence, Bongo's government had imposed a nightly curfew and shut down the internet across the nation.