French media reports a coup in Gabon with celebrations in Libreville the capital military say on TV president has been deposed
A group of uniformed Gabonese soldiers have appeared on national television to announce the dissolution of all state institutions and the cancellation of the country’s disputed elections, after longtime leader Ali Bongo was declared the winner of last week’s presidential race.
The soldiers delivered a live address early on Wednesday morning, stating they would “defend peace by putting an end to the current regime” while claiming to speak on behalf of the “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions,” AFP news agency reported.
Residents applaud members of the security forces in the Plein Ciel district Libreville on August 30, 2023 after a group of Gabonese military officers appeared on television announcing they were “putting an end to the current regime” and scrapping official election results that had handed another term to veteran President Ali Bongo Ondimba. © AFP
A spokesman for the group denounced the “irresponsible, unpredictable governance” of President Ali Bongo, claiming his 14 years in office had resulted in a “deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos.”
Following the address, journalists with AFP also reported the sound of gunfire in Gabon’s capital, Libreville, though it is unclear whether clashes were underway.
Commander of the Gabon presidential guard Brice Oligui Nguema with French President Emmanuel Macron
Bongo is under house arrest and one of his sons has been arrested for “treason”, military officers said.
“President Ali Bongo is under house arrest, surrounded by his family and doctors,” they said in a statement read out on state TV.
The head of Gabon‘s presidential guard Brice Oligui Nguema was carried triumphantly by soldiers on according to images broadcast on state TV.
Crowds in Gabon’s capital of Libreville took to the city’s streets to celebrate were seen singing the national anthem with soldiers.
“Thank you, army. Finally, we’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Yollande Okomo, standing in front of soldiers from Gabon’s elite republican guard.
Shopkeeper Viviane Mbou offered the soldiers juice, which they declined.
“Long live our army,” said Jordy Dikaba, a young man walking with his friends on a street lined with armoured policemen.
France “condemns the coup that is under way” in Gabon, government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Wednesday.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that it was “closely following” the situation in Gabon, where senior military officers said earlier that they had overthrown the government.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called Wednesday for “all sides” to guarantee the safety of President Ali Bongo, adding: “China is closely following the developing situation”.
“We call on all sides in Gabon to proceed from the basic interests of the country and the people, resolve differences through dialogue [and] restore normal order as soon as possible,” he added, urging all parties to “guarantee the personal safety of President Bongo and uphold national peace and stability”.
TotalEnergies said it has 350 staff in Gabon and is the country’s main distributor of petroleum products with 45 petrol stations.
Gabon also accounted for 0.6 percent of the company’s oil and gas output in 2022.
TotalEngergies has been operating in the country for over 90 years.
According to the Gabonese Elections Centre, Bongo won the recent presidential election with just over 64% of the vote, beating his top rival Albert Ondo Ossa by a wide margin in a single-round ballot.
Bongo first took power in 2009, and faced another military coup attempt in 2019, when armed military officers took hostages and announced the creation of a similar “National Restoration Council” to “restore democracy in Gabon.” The mutiny was quickly put down and resulted in few casualties, however.
The Central African nation of Gabon, with a population of 2.3 million, shares borders with Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea. It was a colony of France before gaining independence in 1960.
A military coup occurred in another former French colony, Niger, in late July. The situation in the West African state remains tense, with the regional ECOWAS bloc considering a Paris-backed intervention to reinstate the deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum. Mali and Burkina Faso – where the militaries also took power in recent years – have vowed to defend Niger’s new government from outside forces.