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30 Aug, 2023 04:49

Coup underway in Gabon – AFP

French journalists have reported the sound of gunfire in the capital, Libreville
Coup underway in Gabon – AFP

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.

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.

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.

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