Military Officers Seize Power in Gabon, Nullify Election Results

By Mohammed Bello Doka.

In a shocking turn of events, a group of army officers appeared on national television in Gabon today to announce their successful seizure of power. The officers declared that they were annulling the results of Saturday's presidential election, which had declared incumbent President Ali Bongo as the winner. The country's electoral commission had stated that Bongo had won nearly two-thirds of the votes, but the opposition had strongly argued that the election was marred by fraud.

This military move could potentially mark the end of the Bongo family's 53-year rule over Gabon. As one of Africa's major oil producers and with almost 90% of its land covered by forests, Gabon holds a significant position on the continent.

The announcement was made by twelve soldiers early this morning, who revealed that they were dissolving "all the institutions of the republic" and closing the country's borders indefinitely. If confirmed, this would be the eighth coup witnessed in former French colonies in Africa within the last three years. However, most of the previous coups have occurred further north in the Sahel region, where an Islamist insurgency has created concerns about the ability of democratically elected governments to protect civilians.

The soldiers identified themselves as members of the Committee of Transition and the Restoration of Institutions, representing the country's security and defense forces. In their televised statement on Gabon 24, one soldier expressed their decision to intervene: "We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime." He further criticized the "irresponsible, unpredictable governance" that he claimed was causing a deterioration in social cohesion, putting the country at risk of chaos.

Following the broadcast, the capital city of Libreville echoed with the sounds of loud gunfire. The government has not yet responded to the soldiers' actions, and the whereabouts of President Ali Bongo remain unknown.

Internet access had been temporarily suspended after Saturday's election for security purposes but was quickly restored after the apparent coup. A curfew has also been implemented as a precautionary measure.

Concerns about the electoral process in Gabon have been raised repeatedly in previous general elections, and Saturday's vote was no exception. Albert Ondo Ossa, the main opposition candidate, lodged complaints about the absence of ballot papers bearing his name at numerous polling stations. The coalition he represents also alleged that the names of certain individuals who had withdrawn from the presidential race were still included on the ballot sheet.

Reporters Without Borders, a campaign group advocating for freedom of the press, reported that foreign media outlets were banned from entering the country to cover the election. This served as yet another point of contention surrounding the legitimacy of the process.

It is worth noting that both of President Ali Bongo's previous victories were contested by opponents, who claimed they were fraudulent. In this particular election, controversial modifications were made to voting papers just weeks before the voting day.

Bongo ascended to power following the death of his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009. However, his leadership faced a setback when he suffered a stroke in 2018, which sidelined him for almost a year and prompted calls for him to step aside. The following year, a failed coup attempt led to mutinying soldiers being imprisoned.

As the situation unfolds in Gabon, the world watches anxiously to see how events will unfold and whether this military takeover will cement lasting change or further instability for the country.

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