A group of Gabonese soldiers announced on public television Wednesday that they had seized control of the country and canceled the results of its 2023 presidential election, just after incumbent President Ali Bongo was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. The soldiers, part of the newly formed Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), also declared the closure of Gabon’s borders and the suspension of the country’s Senate, National Assembly and Constitutional Court.
According to the election results, Bongo received 64.27 percent of the vote while opponent Albert Ondo Ossa garnered 30.77 percent. The elections were marred by accusations of fraud from Onda Ossa. The government also imposed an internet blackout after Saturday’s elections and suspended three French news channels for “a lack of objectivity and balance.” Bongo was also the target of fraud accusations in 2016 after he won that year’s presidential election.
The soldiers’ announcement comes one month after fellow former French colony Niger underwent a coup in July, in which President Mohammed Bazoum was overthrown by members of Niger’s presidential guard. Niger’s coup came alongside a rise of anti-French sentiment in the country, with pro-coup protesters carrying signs with slogans such as “France must leave” and “Down with France long live Putin.” Niger’s junta has also ordered the French ambassador to leave the country.
Gabon last underwent a coup attempt in 2019 after Bongo suffered a stroke. However, the attempt failed and resulted in the deaths of two pro-coup soldiers and the arrest of eight others. The last successful coup in Gabon occurred in 1964, less than six years after the country’s independence.
Ali Bongo is the son of former Gabonese President Omar Bongo, who ruled the country from 1967 to 2009. Omar Bongo was known for his close relations with France and for amassing a vast amount of personal wealth while president.
This is a rapidly developing situation.