A group of a dozen Gabonese soldiers from the Republican Guard and police announced on the morning of August 30 that they had seized power and cancelled recent elections that saw President Ali Bongo re-elected.
The Republican Guard is a special unit that is tasked with protecting the president.
One of the soldiers said: "We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime."
Speaking on the state-owned Gabon 24 TV channel, apparently from the presidential compound, the soldiers said they were setting up a “Transition and Institutional Restoration Committee” and dissolved parliament.
"All the institutions of the republic are dissolved, the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court. We call on the population for calm and serenity and we reaffirm our attachment to the respect of Gabon's commitments towards the international community", continued the soldier, also announcing the closure of the country's borders "until further notice".
So far the situation in Gabon's capital Libreville is calm Russian diplomats in the city told TASS. "So far, everything is quiet here, the embassy is safe," the diplomats said.
If successful, the coup would represent the eighth in west and central Africa since 2020. There have been coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and most recently in Niger, that is now sucking in the Western powers as Africa becomes part of a wider clash between East and West as bne IntelliNews reported in Russia in Africa .
The coup d'état appears to be a reaction to Bongo’s victory in an election that was not seen as free and fair by international observers. The soldiers made their announcement only hours after the election commission announced the results of the election that saw Bongo re-elected for a third term. Bongo has been in power for 14 years and won 64.3% of the vote, according to the official results.
The Bongo family has collectively ruled the country for 53 years. Bongo came to power when his father Omar died in 2009.
Bongo's main rival, Albert Ondo Ossa, only received 30.77% of the vote, according to reports, and denounced the results as, “a fraud orchestrated by the Bongo camp.” Shots were heard in several neighbourhoods of the capital Libreville, according to local reports.
Ossa said that during the election his name did not appear on the ballot papers at many polling stations and the coalition he represents said the names of some of those who had withdrawn from the presidential race were still on many ballot sheet.
Bongo received 41.7% of the vote in his first elections. Bongo was re-elected in 2016 with 49.8% of the vote, while his opposition rival received 48.2%. According to experts, he managed to implement only 13 of the 105 provisions listed in his 2016 election program.
Gabon is one of the most oil-rich countries in Africa (70.5% of export revenues). It is among the continent's leaders in terms of per capita income ($7,540 per year as of 2022; ranks third after the Seychelles and Mauritius). At the same time, the economic policies of the incumbent government have failed to reduce poverty, which affected 32.9% of the population in 2022, according to the World Bank. Despite the positive GDP growth, this indicator is below the regional average (+4.5%).