Soldiers appeared on Gabonese national television, announcing the cancellation of recent election results and the dissolution of “all the institutions of the republic”.
The apparent coup follows shortly after the national election authority’s announcement on Wednesday that Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba had been re-elected for a third term.
A soldier appearing on TV channel Gabon 24 said, “We have decided to defend peace by putting an end to the current regime”.
Gunfire is reported in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, according to media reports.
Gabon’s political opposition branded the election a “fraud orchestrated by Ali Bongo and his supporters”.
‘The coup in Gabon is different’
Ovigwe Eguegu, security analyst at Afripolitika, a security consultancy group, says the coup in Gabon is not similar to others witnessed in West Africa.
“The coup in Gabon came as a surprise but to some extent, it is not really a surprise because if you go back to 2016 for instance when there was an election, the vote was fraudulent with people protesting the results. That was Ali Bongo’s second term,” Eguegu said.
“Then in 2019, there was a coup attempt and those officers cited election irregularities saying it was not representative of the will of the people,” he added.
“Again, we are seeing the same pattern. The coup in Gabon is different from what we are seeing in other West African countries. While those other coups are more about security and governance, this is specifically about the electoral process,” he said.
‘We expect reactions on the streets’
Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reporting from Niamey in Niger says people in Gabon are just waking up to the news.
“We expect reactions on the streets. It’s expected that many people here will be happy,” he said.
“The common thread of all these coups in West Africa and Central Africa that we have seen over the past few years is basically economic stagnation, corruption and insecurity,” Idris said.
“In the case of Gabon, it’s more like corruption and of course maladministration,” he added.
Celebrations in parts of Libreville
China calls for President Bongo’s safety to be guaranteed
China has called for “all sides” in Gabon to guarantee the safety of President Ali Bongo Ondimba after a group of military officers said they were “putting an end to the current regime” in the West African nation.
“We call on all sides in Gabon to proceed from the basic interests of the country and the people, resolve differences through dialogue, (and) restore normal order as soon as possible,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
Wang called on parties to “guarantee the personal safety of President Bongo, and uphold national peace and stability”.
France following events in Gabon ‘with the greatest attention’
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne says Parisis following events in Gabon “with the greatest attention”
Borne’s comment was the first reaction from France – Gabon’s former colonial power – whose influence and interests in Africa are seen as being undermined by a series of recent coups that have toppled friendly governments.
‘We are hearing that people are coming out of their homes’
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi reporting from Nairobi, Kenya says people have started taking to the streets in Gabon.
“Right now we are hearing that people are coming out of their homes, they have come to the streets, and many of them are celebrating,” Soi said.
“We are also being told that the military individuals who spoke on TV have arrested several government officials as well,” she added.
“We don’t know where the president is. The individuals who spoke did not say if they were holding the president,” Soi said.
‘This is a big issue for Europe’
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says defence ministers from the bloc are to discuss the situation in Gabon.
“If this is confirmed, it is another military coup which increases instability in the whole region,” Borrell, speaking at a meeting of EU defence ministers in Toledo, said.
“The whole area, starting with Central African Republic, then Mali, then Burkina Faso, now Niger, maybe Gabon, it’s in a very difficult situation and certainly the ministers … have to have a deep thought on what is going on there and how we can improve our policy in respect with these countries,” he said.
“This is a big issue for Europe,” he added.
‘We are finally on the road to happiness’
Gabon’s army officers who claimed to have seized power say the country is “on the road to happiness”, adding that Libreville will respect its commitments “to the national and international community”.
“We call for calm and serenity from the public, the communities of sister countries settled in Gabon, and the Gabonese diaspora,” an officer reading a statement on state TV said.
“We reaffirm our commitment to respecting Gabon’s commitments to the national and international community,” he added.
Gabon’s borders ‘closed until further notice’: Soldiers announce on TV
Gabon’s borders have been closed indefinitely by soldiers who appeared to have seized power, as announced in a statement broadcast on the state-run Gabon 24 television channel.
“The borders are closed until further notice,” said one of the soldiers, speaking on behalf of a “Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions”.