Military officials in Gabon announced on Wednesday that they would seize power from President Ali Bongo Ondimba in a stunning coup that threatened the family’s half-century of rule over the central African nation.
Men in military uniforms appeared on national television and announced the president’s house arrest during a military takeover, prompting reports of celebrations and gunfire on the streets of the capital – but condemnation abroad.
“The fact that Ali Bongo Ondimba is under house arrest has been brought to the attention of the national and international community,” an unnamed junta spokesman said on state television Wednesday morning.
The ousted president is surrounded by his “family and doctors”.
Hours later, a junta spokesman said authorities would investigate allegations against the president’s son, Nurreddin Bongo Valent, who was arrested along with six others for “high treason”.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency aired a video of the president asking his “friends” to “make some noise” following his house arrest.
“My son is somewhere, my wife is somewhere else,” he said.
“I’m in the apartment,” Bongo added, sitting in a library-like space. “Nothing’s happening, I don’t know what’s going on.”
It was not immediately clear under what circumstances the film was taken.
Meanwhile, AFP Video footage showed soldiers celebrating in the capital Libreville in support of coup leader General Price Oligui Nkuma. He was seen on the shoulders of soldiers shouting “President”.
The announcement came minutes after President Ali Bongo Ondimba, also known as Ali Bongo, was presumed to have won the contested election.
Officials who claimed to represent the country’s “security and defense forces” made the announcement in a televised speech on news channel Gabon24. It was spotted by CNN on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“On behalf of the people of Kabonis and on behalf of the guarantor of the safety of the companies, CTRI [the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions] “It has decided to preserve peace by ending the regime,” an army official said in the broadcast.
CNN could not independently confirm the video, and the Gabonese government has not yet been reached for comment.
In the broadcast, the military official said the election results would be annulled and the country’s borders would be closed.
“All the institutions of the Republic have been dissolved: especially the government, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional Court, the Economic and Social and Environmental Council and Gabon’s Elections Council,” the official said.
“We call on the Gabonese people, neighboring communities living in Gabon and the Gabonese diaspora to remain calm.”
Loud gunfire was heard in the capital Libreville, a Reuters reporter said following a televised appearance.
According to videos shared with CNN and posted on social media, people in Gabon were seen dancing and celebrating in the streets of its capital.
In a video obtained by CNN, people can be seen chanting “liberation”. and waving the Gabonese flag with military vehicles in the capital’s Nzeng Ayong district.
Reviews started pouring in from all over the world. France condemned “the ongoing military coup in Gabon,” government spokesman Olivier Veran told reporters on Wednesday.
The US Embassy advised its citizens in the capital to shelter in place, while the French Foreign Ministry urged its citizens in Gabon to “avoid or limit” travel.
The former French colonies of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Tunisia and now Gabon have experienced nine coups in the past three years, undermining democratic progress in recent years.
Earlier on Wednesday, Gabon’s electoral body said Bongo had won the presidential election with 64.27% of the vote, Reuters reported, after a delayed general election that the opposition denounced as rigged.
Bongo’s main rival, Albert Ondo Osa, came second with 30.77% of the vote, the Electoral Commission said. Bongo’s team has rejected Ondo Ossa’s allegations of electoral malpractices.
Ali Bongo, 64, took over from his father, Omar Bongo, who died of a heart attack in 2009 while being treated for bowel cancer at a Spanish hospital.
The elder Bongo came to power in 1967, seven years after the country gained independence from France.
He ruled the small nation with an iron fist, imposing a one-party system for years and only allowing multiparty rule in 1991, although his party retained its grip on government.
Ali Bongo began his political career in 1981 and served as foreign minister and congressman from 1989 to 1991, according to the Gabon embassy. website In America. Before becoming the President in 2009, he was the Defense Minister in 1999.
Ali Bongo had 18 contestants in this week’s election, six of whom supported former minister and university professor Ondo Ossa in a bid to narrow the contest. Many in the opposition have been pushing for change in the oil-rich but impoverished nation of 2.3 million people.
Tensions ran high amid fears of unrest after Saturday’s vote, with international observers complaining of a lack of transparency.
Ahead of the election, the non-profit Reporters Without Borders condemned the Gabonese government for blocking foreign press coverage of the event.
EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said on Wednesday that “if (the situation in Gabon) is confirmed (it is) another military coup”, it would “increase instability in the whole region”.
“It is an issue that will be put on the table and we will discuss it,” Borrell told reporters ahead of an EU ministerial meeting on defense in Toledo, Spain.
“The whole region is a very difficult situation, starting with the Central African Republic, then Mali, then Burkina Faso, now Niger, maybe Gabon,” Borrell said.
This is not the first time Gabon has seen power struggles or unrest over Bongo’s rule, which has often been disputed by critics.
In 2016, the parliament building was torched when violent street protests erupted against Bongo’s bid for re-election for a second term. At that time the government blocked internet access for several days.
A coup attempt came in 2019, when a group of soldiers and military officers stormed the state radio and television headquarters, took staff hostage, and announced that they had taken control of the nation.
They cited dissatisfaction with Bongo as president and vowed to “restore democracy” in the country – before Gabon’s security and defense forces ended the takeover and freed the hostages. As a result two soldiers were killed and eight army officers were arrested.