Twelve (12) Gabonese military officers appeared on national television on Wednesday to announce the overthrow of the 56 year-old Bongo family dynasty in the country.
In a brief speech on national TV, Gabon 24, the officers introduced themselves as members of The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions.
“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 in a statement.
As one officer read the joint statement, around a dozen others stood silently behind him in military fatigues and berets.
The soldiers said they were annulling the results of Saturday’s election, in which President Ali Bongo was declared the winner with 64.27% of the vote, while his main challenger, Albert Ondo Ossa, was allocated 30.77%.
The opposition which had declared Bongo’s victory fraudulent, had also claimed victory.
The 12 putschists announced the annulment of the election and dissolved “all the institutions of the republic”.
The state institutions they declared dissolved included the government, the senate, the national assembly, the constitutional court and the election body.
One of the soldiers said on Gabon 24: “After observing irresponsible, unpredictable governance resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion that risks leading the country into chaos… we have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime.”
“President Ali Bongo is under house arrest, surrounded by his family and doctors,” they said in a statement read out on state TV.
The Putschists had said the sack of President Bongo was “necessary” for the development of the West African nation and that significant institutional, political, economic, and social difficulties were the main causes of it.
“Our lovely country, Gabon, has always been a refuge of peace. Today, the country is going through a serious institutional, political, economic and social crisis.
“We are therefore forced to admit that the organisation of the general elections of August 26, 2023, did not meet the conditions for a transparent, credible and inclusive ballot so much hoped for by the people of Gabon.
“Added to this is irresponsible and unpredictable governance, resulting in a continuing deterioration in social cohesion, with the risk of leading the country into chaos.
“Today, 30 August 2023, we, the defence and security forces, gathered as the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI) on behalf of the people of Gabon and as guarantors of the institutions’ protection — have decided to defend the peace by putting an end to the current regime.
“To this end, the general elections of 26 August 2023 and the truncated results are cancelled.
“The borders are closed until further notice”, the junta said in a speech delivered on national television on Wednesday; adding that all the institutions of the country be dissolved including the Federal Government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council and the Gabonese Elections Centre.
While appealing for calm from the public, the communities of sister countries settled in Gabon, and the Gabonese diaspora, the Putschists further reaffirmed “commitment to respecting Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community.
“People of Gabon, we are finally on the road to happiness. May God and the spirits of our ancestors bless Gabon. Honour and loyalty to our homeland”, they added.
Meanwhile, the military leaders have arrested Noureddin Bongo Valentin, one of the sons of ousted President Ali Bongo.
He was arrested along with Bongo’s chief of staff, Ian Ghislain Ngoulou, as well as his deputy, two other presidential advisers and the two top officials in the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).
According to the military, they were arrested for treason, embezzlement, corruption and falsifying the president’s signature, among other allegations.
Bongo came to power when his father Omar died in 2009. Omar El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba was the second president of Gabon for almost 42 years, from 1967 until his death in 2009.
The younger Bongo suffered a stroke in 2018 which sidelined him for almost a year and led to calls for him to step aside.
The following year, a failed coup attempt saw mutinying soldiers sent to prison.