Democracy again suffered a deadly blow on Wednesday as a group of senior Gabonese military officers said they had taken power, minutes after the state election body announced President Ali Bongo had won a third term.
If successful, the coup would represent the eighth in West and Central Africa since 2020. Coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger have undermined democratic progress in recent years.
Appearing on television channel Gabon 24, the officers said they represented all security and defence forces in the Central African nation. They said the election results were cancelled, all borders closed until further notice and state institutions dissolved.
Loud sounds of gunfire could be heard in the capital Libreville, a Reuters reporter said, after the television appearance.
There was no immediate comment from the government of the OPEC-member nation. There were no immediate reports on the whereabouts of Bongo, who was last seen in public when he cast his vote in the election on Saturday.
“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 servicemen introduced themselves as members of The Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions. The state institutions they declared dissolved included the government, the senate, the national assembly, the constitutional court and the election body.
Last month, the military snatched power in Niger, sending shockwaves across the Sahel and sucking in global powers with strategic interests at stake.